Previously on: Bell and Henry challenge Varney to two consecutive duels, which take most of the chapter to set up and arrange; Varney is selectively immune to bullets; an angry mob approaches.
Chillingworth has come along with the mob in hopes of calming them down, but this does no good:
"Mr. Bannerworth, it has become known, through my indiscretion, that Sir Francis Varney is suspected of being a vampyre."
"Is this so?"
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob. "Down with the vampyre! hurrah! where is he? Down with him!"
"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanest. You've only to take a hedge stake and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."
The mob gave a great shout at this humane piece of advice, and it was some time before Henry could make himself heard at all, even to those who were nearest to him.
Henry tells them to go away and stop helping. This doesn’t work either.
"If anything," pursued Henry, "could add to the annoyance of vexation and misery we have suffered, it would assuredly be the being made subjects of every-day gossip, and every-day clamour."
"You hear him?" said Mr. Marchdale.
"Yes, we does," said a man; "but we comes out to catch a vampyre, for all that."
"Oh, to be sure," said the humane woman; "nobody's feelings is nothing to us. Are we to be woke up in the night with vampyres sucking our bloods while we've got a stake in the country?"
"Hurrah!" shouted everybody. "Down with the vampyre! where is he?"
Yet again we are treated to Rymer/Prest’s attempts to master Dickensian comic classist caricature. The entire mob sequence, including a weird and abortive attempt to exhume someone to see if they are a vampire, is written in this somewhat excruciating style, so I will inflict little of it upon the rest of you.
Henry discovers within his breast a hitherto unthought-of wellspring of sympathy, and so does the admiral; neither of them much like the idea of Varney being torn apart by a bunch of angry yokels, and the admiral proposes to loose a few pistol shots over the mob to disperse them, when Varney appears out of the woods:
Sir Francis Varney had been seen, and was flying before those implacable foes who had sought his life.
He had divested himself of his huge cloak, as well as of his low slouched hat, and, with a speed which nothing but the most absolute desperation could have enabled him to exert, he rushed onward, beating down before him every obstacle, and bounding over the meadows at a rate that, if he could have continued it for any length of time, would have set pursuit at defiance.
So: courtly gentleman, exquisite manners except when engaged in home invasion and assault; accomplished swordsman; Olympic sprinter (in eighteenth-century heeled slippers, to judge by the illustrations). He also has strange-colored eyes. Varney is a Sue.
The Bannerworth party sets off for the town to get some actual authorities involved in the situation, and we rejoin Varney, running like hell across hill and dale to — where else? — the mysterious gothic ruin wherein lies the prisoner we encountered several million words ago. His pursuers arrive shortly thereafter, and are convinced that they’ve caught him now: they have the ruin surrounded and do not expect him to be able to escape, although when they begin to search the structure and find no sign of him, morale suffers somewhat.
Over and over again the ruins were searched—hastily and impatiently by some, carefully and deliberately by others, until there could be no doubt upon the mind of every one individual, that somehow or somewhere within the shadow of those walls, Sir Francis Varney had disappeared most mysteriously.
Then it would have been a strange sight for any indifferent spectator to have seen how they shrunk, one by one, out of the shadow of those ruins; each seeming to be afraid that the vampyre, in some mysterious manner, would catch him if he happened to be the last within their sombre influence; and, when they had all collected in the bright, open space, some little distance beyond, they looked at each other and at the ruins, with dubious expressions of countenance, each, no doubt, wishing that each would suggest something of a consolatory or practicable character.
One of them, a slightly brighter spark than the rest, proposes that the mob should go home (and be heard, loudly, to be departing and no longer interested in capturing Varney), but leave one sentinel behind to observe if the vampyre should actually emerge from the ruins. This is agreed upon, but:
They then all set off at full speed; but the cunning fellow, who certainly had not the slightest idea of so practically carrying out his own suggestion, scampered off after them with a speed that soon brought him in the midst of the throng again, and so, with fear in their looks, and all the evidences of fatigue about them, they reached the town to spread fresh and more exaggerated accounts of the mysterious conduct of Varney the vampyre.
You guys suck at this. Seriously.
Meanwhile Rymer/Prest go back to the Pathetic Prisoner:
We have before slightly mentioned to the reader, and not unadvisedly, the existence of a certain prisoner, confined in a gloomy dungeon, into whose sad and blackened recesses but few and faint glimmering rays of light ever penetrated; for, by a diabolical ingenuity, the narrow loophole which served for a window to that subterraneous abode was so constructed, that, let the sun be at what point it might, during its diurnal course, but a few reflected beams of light could ever find their way into that abode of sorrow.
The prisoner—the same prisoner of whom we before spoke—is there. Despair is in his looks, and his temples are still bound with those cloths, which seemed now for many days to have been sopped in blood, which has become encrusted in their folds.
Eww. The prisoner is super depressed because he’s a prisoner: this theme is enlarged upon and embroidered to a thoroughly unnecessary and yet characteristic extent, until he hears footsteps approaching on the ground above — someone is coming! — who could it be?
He hears some one labouring for breath—panting like a hunted hare; his dungeon door is opened, and there totters in a man, tall and gaunt; he reels like one intoxicated; fatigue has done more than the work of inebriation; he cannot save himself, and he sinks exhausted by the side of that lonely prisoner.
The captive raises himself as far as his chains will allow him; he clutches the throat of his enervated visitor.
"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life together.
OK DUDE HOW DO YOU HAVE THE ENERGY TO THROTTLE ANYBODY YOU HAVE BEEN LYING HERE IN DURANCE VILE FOR WHAT HAS TO BE DAAAAYS
And just when things were getting interesting we have to go back to Bannerworth Hall and have a truly interminable conversation between Henry and Flora regarding Varney, their situation, the Hall, the disappearance of Charles Holland, the opinion of Marchdale, the lack of superstition on the part of Chillingworth, and any other goddamn thing they can think of to discuss:
"And now, sister, before we leave the place which has been a home to us from earliest life, let us for a few moments consider if there be any possible excuse for the notion of Mr. Chillingworth, to the effect that Sir Francis Varney wants possession of the house for some purpose still more inimical to our peace and prosperity than any he has yet attempted."
"Has he such an opinion?"
"'Tis very strange."
"Yes, Flora; he seems to gather from all the circumstances, nothing but an overwhelming desire on the part of Sir Francis Varney to become the tenant of Bannerworth Hall."
"He certainly wishes to possess it."
WE KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE
"Yes; but can you, sister, in the exercise of any possible amount of fancy, imagine any motive for such an anxiety beyond what he alleges?"
"Which is merely that he is fond of old houses."
"Precisely so. That is the reason, and the only one, that can be got from him. Heaven only knows if it be the true one."
"It may be, brother."
Henry pretends to be perceptive and intelligent, instead of having the mental capacity of a gummy eraser:
"As you say, it may; but there's a doubt, nevertheless, Flora. I much rejoice that you have had an interview with this mysterious being, for you have certainly, since that time, been happier and more composed than I ever hoped to see you again."
"I have indeed."
"It is sufficiently perceivable."
Flora’s like “yeah so I’ve been thinking about that”:
"Somehow, brother, since that interview, I have not had the same sort of dread of Sir Francis Varney which before made the very sound of his name a note of terror to me. His words, and all he said to me during that interview which took place so strangely between us, indeed how I know not, tended altogether rather to make him, to a certain extent, an object of my sympathies rather than my abhorrence."
"That is very strange."
She points out that there was almost certainly a time in Varney’s existence when he was not the vampyre, and that he was someone’s victim just as Flora herself is his. Henry has to admit there’s some truth there, and they discuss what to do: she wants to leave the Hall but not go very far, because of the missing Charles. Just then the admiral and Chillingworth saunter up to them and suggest that Flora needs a change of air, and that the family should repair to some other locale which the admiral will pay for with his considerable fortune:
“I am going to what the lawyers call invest it."
"A prudent step, admiral, and one which it is to be hoped, before now, has occurred to you."
"Perhaps it has and perhaps it hasn't; however, that's my business, and no one's else's. I am going to invest my spare cash in taking houses; so, as I don't care a straw where the houses may be situated, you can look out for one somewhere that will suit you, and I'll take it; so, after all, you will be my guests there just the same as you are here."
Flora and Henry protest that they cannot take advantage of his generosity:
"Indeed I was urging upon Henry to remove," said Flora; "but yet I cannot help feeling with him, admiral, that we are imposing upon your goodness."
"Go on imposing, then."
"Psha! Can't a man be imposed upon if he likes? D—n it, that's a poor privilege for an Englishman to be forced to make a row about. I tell you I like it. I will be imposed upon, so there's an end of that; and now let's come in and see what Mrs. Bannerworth has got ready for luncheon."
I like Bell a lot, when he’s not entirely a caricature: he, like my vampires, has discovered that most problems go away quite quickly if you throw enough money in their direction, and has sensibly decided to do so.
Meanwhile back in town everyone is convincing each other that the vampyre, the vampyre, is menacing the whole lot of them, and one clever-boots instigator plants a seed in their collective mind:
The only individual, and he was a remarkably clever man, who made the slightest remark upon the subject of a practical character, hazarded a suggestion that made confusion worse confounded.
He knew something of vampyres. He had travelled abroad, and had heard of them in Germany, as well as in the east, and, to a crowd of wondering and aghast listeners, he said,—
"You may depend upon it, my friends, this has been going on for some time; there have been several mysterious and sudden deaths in the town lately; people have wasted away and died nobody knew how or wherefore."
"Yes—yes," said everybody.
"There was Miles, the butcher; you know how fat he was, and then how fat he wasn't."
Clearly Miles is the victim of a vampyre, and therefore likely to be a vampyre himself, and it’s time to go play ‘Salem’s Lot:
"There is but one plan—Sir Francis Varney must be found, and put out of the world in such a manner that he can't come back to it again; and all those who are dead that we have any suspicion of, should be taken up out of their graves and looked at, to see if they're rotting or not; if they are it's all right; but, if they look fresh and much, as usual, you may depend they're vampyres, and no mistake."
On their way to the churchyard they cause random mayhem and destruction:
A species of savage ferocity now appeared to have seized upon the crowd, and the people, in making up their minds to do something which was strikingly at variance with all their preconceived notions of right and wrong, appeared to feel that it was necessary, in order that they might be consistent, to cast off many of the decencies of life, and to become riotous and reckless.
As they proceeded towards the graveyard, they amused themselves by breaking the windows of the tax-gatherers, and doing what passing mischief they could to the habitations of all who held any official situation or authority.
They also break into a pub, so by the time they get there they are drunk as well as temporarily insane, and it is such a mess, y’all. SUCH a mess. The town beadle gets beaten up, the vicar runs away and locks himself in the vestry, and they dig up Miles’s coffin and get up the nerve to open it and inside is…
No explanation for this is ever given as far as I can make out. The dude who has taken charge of this operation, one Dick by name, has a suggestion:
Dick's astonishment was so intense that his eyes and mouth kept opening together to such an extent, that it seemed doubtful when they would reach their extreme point of elongation. He then took up the brick and looked at it curiously, and turned it over and over, examined the ends and the sides with a critical eye, and at length he said,—
"Well, I'm blowed, here's a transmogrification; he's consolidified himself into a blessed brick—my eye, here's a curiosity."
"But you don't mean to say that's the butcher, Dick?" said the boy.
Dick reached over, and gave him a tap on the head with the brick.
"There!" he said, "that's what I calls occular demonstration. Do you believe it now, you blessed infidel? What's more natural? He was an out-and-out brick while he was alive; and he's turned to a brick now he's dead."
The mob feels somewhat dissatisfied by this result, and start throwing stones at him.
"Hark ye," he then cried, with a loud voice, "don't interfere with me; you know it won't go down. There's something wrong here; and, as one of yourselves, I'm as much interested in finding out what it is as any of you can possibly be. There seems to be some truth in this vampyre business; our old friend, the butcher, you see, is not in his grave; where is he then?"
The mob looked at each other, and none attempted to answer the question.
"Why, of course, he's a vampyre," said Dick, "and you may all of you expect to see him, in turn, come into your bed-room windows with a burst, and lay hold of you like a million and a half of leeches rolled into one."
There was a general expression of horror, and then Dick continued,—
"You'd better all of you go home; I shall have no hand in pulling up any more of the coffins—this is a dose for me. Of course you can do what you like."
He demonstrates to them that they’re a bunch of cowards; they run off; the kid out of sheer bloody-mindedness gets into the empty coffin, and he and Dick decide to scare the shit out of the townspeople when they come back, which they do, and … what the hell was that all about?
SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE BRICK OR BY GOD I WILL WRITE FIX-IT FIC
Next time, our heroes very slowly prepare to leave Bannerworth Hall, and a bunch of people burn down Varney’s house.