So I’m writing this on the train. NYCC was amazing — I had a lovely time, and now I am entertaining myself on the way back south.
Previously on: Varney has agreed to fight both Henry and the admiral in duels; only one of these long-arranged logistical feats has occurred when A FEARSOME MOB appears, bent on destroying the vampyre. Sir Francis beats feet for the local gothic ruins wherein lies the Prisoner, and they engage in a scuffle. Meanwhile the angry mob gets drunk and goes to dig up some dude’s coffin, only to detect that rather than a corpse OR a vampire, it contains…a brick.
We return to Bannerworth Hall, where the family is still dithering over whether or not to run away. Henry doesn’t wanna, but is going to anyway.
“I must confess that I would fain have clung with a kind of superstitious reverence to this ancient abiding-place of my race, but it may not be so. Those, perchance, who are more practically able to come to correct conclusions, in consequence of their feelings not being sufficiently interested to lead them astray, have decided otherwise; and, therefore, I am content to leave."
"Do not grieve at it, Henry. There has hung a cloud of misfortune over us all since the garden of this house became the scene of an event which we can none of us remember but with terror and shuddering."
"Two generations of our family must live and die before the remembrance of that circumstance can be obliterated. But we will think of it no more."
There can be no doubt but that the dreadful circumstance to which both Mrs. Bannerworth and Henry alluded, was the suicide of the father of the family in the gardens which before has been hinted at in the course of this narration, as being a circumstance which had created a great sensation at the time, and cast a great gloom for many months over the family.
The reader will, doubtless, too, recollect that, at his last moments, this unhappy individual was said to have uttered some incoherent words about some hidden money, and that the rapid hand of death alone seemed to prevent him from being explicit upon that subject, and left it merely a matter of conjecture.
As years had rolled on, this affair, even as a subject of speculation, had ceased to occupy the minds of any of the Bannerworth family, and several of their friends, among whom was Mr. Marchdale, were decidedly of opinion that the apparently pointed and mysterious words uttered, were but the disordered wanderings of an intellect already hovering on the confines of eternity.
Indeed, far from any money, of any amount, being a disturbance to the last moments of the dissolute man, whose vices and extravagances had brought his family, to such ruin, it was pretty generally believed that he had committed suicide simply from a conviction of the impossibility of raising any more supplies of cash, to enable him to carry on the career which he had pursued for so long.
But to resume.
Rymer/Prest actually say that, “to resume,” as if they have the faintest hint of self-awareness. It’s almost cute. Chillingworth tells the Admiral all about the goings-on in town and how the disturbance has required that the authorities send for backup, and he tells Henry to get out of there lest things get even dicier for them:
"Why, it's a sure going proverb to say, that a nod's as good as a wink; but, the fact is, it's getting rather too well known to be pleasant, that a vampyre has struck up rather a close acquaintance with your family. I understand there's a precious row in the town."
"Yes; bother the particulars, for I don't know them; but, hark ye, by to-morrow I'll have found a place for you to go to, so pack up the sticks, get all your stores ready to clear out, and make yourself scarce from this place."
"I understand you," said Henry; "We have become the subject of popular rumour; I've only to beg of you, admiral, that you'll say nothing of this to Flora; she has already suffered enough, Heaven knows; do not let her have the additional infliction of thinking that her name is made familiar in every pothouse in the town."
"Leave me alone for that," said the admiral. "Do you think I'm an ass?"
"Ay, ay," said Jack Pringle, who came in at that moment, and thought the question was addressed to him.
"Who spoke to you, you bad-looking horse-marine?"
Sometimes I like those two. Sometimes. Henry goes to Flora, whom we might remember wanted to move in the first damn place:
"Since we are all agreed upon the necessity, or, at all events, upon the expediency of a departure from the Hall, I think, sister, the sooner we carry out that determination the better and the pleasanter for us all it will be. Do you think you could remove so hastily as to-morrow?"
"To-morrow! That is soon indeed."
"I grant you that it is so; but Admiral Bell assures me that he will have everything in readiness, and a place provided for us to go to by then."
"Would it be possible to remove from a house like this so very quickly?"
"Yes, sister. If you look around you, you will see that a great portion of the comforts you enjoy in this mansion belong to it as a part of its very structure, and are not removable at pleasure; what we really have to take away is very little. The urgent want of money during our father's lifetime induced him, as you may recollect even, at various times to part with much that was ornamental, as well as useful, which was in the Hall. You will recollect that we seldom returned from those little continental tours which to us were so delightful, without finding some old familiar objects gone, which, upon inquiry, we found had been turned into money, to meet some more than usually pressing demand."
"That is true, brother; I recollect well."
"So that, upon the whole, sister, there is little to remove."
NOW THAT THAT’S SETTLED. In fact the admiral is like “lol, what furniture, you let the house to me as is, furniture and all, which means y’all just have to get into a carriage and FINALLY GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE and quit worrying.” I have lost count of how many millions of words it has taken to get this far, but at this point one of Varney’s servants shows up unexpectedly to needle Henry and the admiral about their recent little adventure with pistols and abortive duel attempts:
"The devil!" said the admiral; "if that don't beat all the impudence I ever came near. Our flurry! Ah! I like that fellow. Just go and tell him—"
"No, no," said Henry, interposing, "send back no message. Say to your master, fellow, that Mr. Henry Bannerworth feels that not only has he no claim to Sir Francis Varney's courtesy, but that he would rather be without it."
"Oh, ha!" said the footman, adjusting his collar; "very good. This seems a d——d, old-fashioned, outlandish place of yours. Any ale?"
He continues to be obnoxious until Jack and the admiral grab him, stick his head under the pump, and perform a rough eighteenth-century version of “you get to drink from the fire hose”. At length they get bored with it and kick the dude out, and wonder what the hell Varney’s up to:
How it was that Sir Francis Varney, after the fearful race he had had, got home again across the fields, free from all danger, and back to his own house, from whence he sent so cool and insolent a message, they could not conceive.
Me neither, since the last time we saw him he was locked in a vital struggle with the Pathetic Prisoner, who is obviously Charles Holland. We have no idea what happened in the rest of that scene, and Rymer/Prest are not even slightly interested in telling us. Instead we rejoin the other thread of the narrative, to wit: the activities of the townspeople.
But were the mob satisfied with what had occurred in the churchyard? They were not, and that night was to witness the perpetration of a melancholy outrage, such as the history of the time presents no parallel to.
The finding of a brick in the coffin of the butcher, instead of the body of that individual, soon spread as a piece of startling intelligence all over the place; and the obvious deduction that was drawn from the circumstance, seemed to be that the deceased butcher was unquestionably a vampyre, and out upon some expedition at the time when his coffin was searched.
How he had originally got out of that receptacle for the dead was certainly a mystery; but the story was none the worse for that. Indeed, an ingenious individual found a solution for that part of the business, for, as he said, nothing was more natural, when anybody died who was capable of becoming a vampyre, than for other vampyres who knew it to dig him up, and lay him out in the cold beams of the moonlight, until he acquired the same sort of vitality they themselves possessed, and joined their horrible fraternity.
In lieu of a better explanation—and, after all, it was no bad one—this theory was generally received, and, with a shuddering horror, people asked themselves, if the whole of the churchyard were excavated, how many coffins would be found tenantless by the dead which had been supposed, by simple-minded people, to inhabit them.
The presence, however, of a body of dragoons, towards evening, effectually prevented any renewed attack upon the sacred precincts of the churchyard, and it was a strange and startling thing to see that country town under military surveillance, and sentinels posted at its principal buildings.
This measure smothered the vengeance of the crowd, and insured, for a time, the safety of Sir Francis Varney; for no considerable body of persons could assemble for the purpose of attacking his house again, without being followed; so such a step was not attempted.
It had so happened, however, that on that very day, the funeral of a young man was to have taken place, who had put up for a time at that same inn where Admiral Bell was first introduced to the reader. He had become seriously ill, and, after a few days of indisposition, which had puzzled the country practitioners, breathed his last.
SO OBVIOUSLY he’s a vampyre, and a chambermaid has a look at his dead body and has the screaming horrors:
"Come into the house—come into the house! Look upon the dead body, that should have been in its grave; it's fresher now than it was the day on which it died, and there's a colour in its cheeks! A vampyre—a vampyre—a vampyre! Heaven save us from a vampyre!"
Oh shut up. Rymer/Prest presume to instruct us on the particulars of forensic anthropology vis-a-vis the decay process, claiming that “after four or five days, or even a week, the bodies of many persons assume an appearance of freshness, such as might have been looked for in vain immediately after death,” and then proceed to sneer at the chambermaid’s lack of intelligence and her superstitious beliefs. The mob runs into the inn to come have a look at the dead guy:
The presence of so many persons at once effectually prevented any individual from exhibiting, even if he felt any superstitious fears about approaching the coffin; and so, with one accord, they surrounded it, and looked upon the face of the dead.
There was nothing repulsive in that countenance. The fact was that decomposition had sufficiently advanced to induce a relaxation of the muscles, and a softening of the fibres, so that an appearance of calmness and repose had crept over the face which it did not wear immediately after death.
It happened, too, that the face was full of flesh—for the death had been sudden, and there had not been that wasting away of the muscles and integuments which makes the skin cling, as it were, to the bone, when the ravages of long disease have exhausted the physical frame.
There was, unquestionably, a plumpness, a freshness, and a sort of vitality about the countenance that was remarkable.
For a few moments there was a death-like stillness in the apartment, and then one voice broke the silence by exclaiming,—
"He's a vampyre, and has come here to die. Well he knows he'd be taken up by Sir Francis Varney, and become one of the crew."
"Yes, yes," cried several voices at once; "a vampyre! a vampyre!"
ALL TOGETHER NOW: A VAMPYRE
They stake the random dead guy, and of course there are rumors that the body uttered a terrible groan at the hammering in of the stake (credible, corpses totally make sounds after death, gas escaping, etc) or that the countenance became distorted with agony and the limbs writhed and so on. The soldiers who have been sent to quell the mob arrive soon afterward and are horrified and sickened at the sight of the violated body, understandably enough, and now we do a complicated and unnecessary rapid flicking back and forth between the mob hiding in the inn against the wrath of the soldiers and the mob not hiding in the inn who decide hey, why not, let’s go burn down the vampyre’s house, it’s just that kind of a night.
But it is necessary, now that we have disposed of the smaller number of rioters who committed so serious an outrage at the inn, that we should, with some degree of method, follow the proceedings of the larger number, who went from the town towards Sir Francis Varney's.
These persons either had information of a very positive nature, or a very strong suspicion that, notwithstanding the mysterious and most unaccountable disappearance of the vampyre in the old ruin, he would now be found, as usual, at his own residence.
Off they go, and hit upon the cunning plan of knocking on the door to gain admittance:
They had abundant faith, from experience, of the resources in the way of escape of Sir Francis Varney, and not one among them was there who considered that there was any chance of capturing him, except by surprise, and when once they got hold of him, they determined he should not easily slip through their fingers.
The knock for admission produced no effect; and, after waiting three or four minutes, it was very provoking to find such a wonderful amount of caution and cunning completely thrown away.
At this point a servant opens a little wicket-gate in the main door and asks them what the fuck they want; they ask if Varney is at home; he declines to answer and tells them to go away. This causes consternation and lengthy discussion amongst the members of the mob, whom at this point I cannot help but picture with knotted handkerchiefs on their heads a la the Python Gumbys.
"I wish we could get in."
"But how is a question I don't very well see," said a large specimen of humanity.
"The best thing that can be done will be to go round and look over the whole house, and then we may come upon some part where it is far easier to get in at than by the front door."
Instead they decide to try knocking again. I cannot get over these people.
The big countryman left the main body, and resolutely walked up to the main avenue, and approached the door, accompanied by about a dozen or less of the mob. When they came to the door, they commenced knocking and kicking most violently, and assailing it with all kinds of things they could lay their hands upon.
They continued at this violent exercise for some time—perhaps for five minutes, when the little square hole in the door was again opened, and a voice was heard to say,—
"You had better cease that kind of annoyance."
"We want to get in."
"It will cost you more lives to do so than you can afford to spare. We are well armed, and are prepared to resist any effort you can make."
"Oh! it's all very well; but, an you won't open, why we'll make you; that's all about it."
This was said as the big countryman and his companions were leaving the avenue towards the rest of the body.
At this point the servant inside discharges a blunderbuss through the little wicket-gate in the door. This goes on for some time before they split up and start using battering rams to force their way in, which eventually works. It’s just so embarrassing, the whole thing.
The fact was, a party of the mob had clambered up a verandah, and entered some of the rooms upstairs, whence they emerged just above the landing near the spot where the servants were resisting in a mass the efforts of the mob.
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.
"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above.
There was a momentary pause, and the servants divided themselves into two bodies, and one turned to face those above, and the other those who were below.
A simultaneous shout was given by both parties of the mob, and a sudden rush was made by both bodies, and the servants of Sir Francis Varney were broken in an instant. They were instantly separated, and knocked about a good bit, but they were left to shift for themselves, the mob had a more important object in view.
"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.
"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they, and they rushed helter skelter through the rooms, until they came to one where the door was partially open, and they could see some person very leisurely seated.
"Here he is," they cried.
"Down with him! kill him! burn him!"
"Hurrah! down with the vampire!"
In the heat of the moment they forget how to spell him. Eventually after a lot more of this nonsense they locate a person calmly sitting in an armchair.
The room was well filled with furniture, and there was a curtain drawn across the room, and about the middle of it there was a table, behind which sat Sir Francis Varney himself, looking all smiles and courtesy.
"Well, dang my smock-frock!" said one, "who'd ha' thought of this? He don't seem to care much about it."
"Well, I'm d——d!" said another; "he seems pretty easy, at all events. What is he going to do?"
"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest smiles, "pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension on your part. The visit is kind."
The mob looked at Sir Francis, and then at each other, and then at Sir Francis again; but nobody spoke. They were awed by this gentlemanly and collected behaviour.
"If you honour me with this visit from pure affection and neighbourly good-will, I thank you."
"Down with the vampyre!" said one, who was concealed behind the rest, and not so much overawed, as he had not seen Sir Francis.
There’s always one. Varney smiles at them, showing his teeth, and slips behind a curtain.
"Down with the vampyre!" rang through the apartment; and the mob now, not awed by the coolness and courtesy of Sir Francis, rushed forward, and, overturning the table, tore down the curtain to the floor; but, to their amazement, there was no Sir Francis Varney present.
"Where is he?"
"Where is the vampyre?"
"Where has he gone?"
These were cries that escaped every one's lips; and yet no one could give an answer to them.
Which, okay, it’s either that he has a secret passageway or he can do one of the vampire shapeshift things that show up across the canon: some vampires can become mist, most can do the bat thing, some can be wolves. It’s completely unclear from context how Varney manages his disappearance, and because Rymer/Prest suck at this, the uncertainty is not an enjoyable mystery for the audience so much as a “what the fuck just happened” moment.
Meanwhile the mob decides to search the cellars, ostensibly to find the vampyre but mostly to get wasted on Varney’s considerable wine collection, preparatory to setting the house on fire, which they do with gusto. When the soldiers arrive it’s completely engulfed in flames and there’s no hope of saving anything:
The officer gazed for some moments upon the burning pile without speaking; and then, turning to the next in command, he said in low tones, as he looked upon the mob,—
"We have come too late."
"The house is now nearly gutted."
"And those who came crowding along with us are inextricably mingled with the others who have been the cause of all this mischief: there's no distinguishing them one from another."
"And if you did, you could not say who had done it, and who had not; you could prove nothing."
"I shall not attempt to take prisoners, unless any act is perpetrated beyond what has been done."
"It is a singular affair."
"This Sir Francis Varney is represented to be a courteous, gentlemanly man," said the officer.
"No doubt about it, but he's beset by a parcel of people who do not mind cutting a throat if they can get an opportunity of doing so."
"And I expect they will."
"Yes, when there is a popular excitement against any man, he had better leave this part at once and altogether. It is dangerous to tamper with popular prejudices; no man who has any value for his life ought to do so. It is a sheer act of suicide."
Yup, there’s the sentiment to take away: if people don’t like you, you should leave. Very encouraging and uplifting, Rymer/Prest.
Next time: a bunch of idiots are idiotic; the admiral and Jack are naval; the Bannerworths finally, finally, finally leave Bannerworth Hall.