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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not at all."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He is," said the other.

"You have no manner of doubt of it?"

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

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

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

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


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

"Then you have an appointment with him?"

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

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

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

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

"I do, indeed."

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

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

awwww Chillingworth you are good people

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

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

"I do not."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Indeed! You left the dreadful trade?"

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"What do you take it to be?"

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

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


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

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

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

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

"I did; can you inform me?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"He did, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who has done so?"

"The vampyre."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here Mrs Chillingworth paused, and some person said,—

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

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

And they’re off.

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

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

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

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

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

Nice work, lady. It gets better:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And you left her?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, I was."

"And have you done so?"—

"Oh, no."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cut to Marchdale in the dungeon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the Varney recaps collected for your convenience

Because this blog has basically zero navigation tools (working on it) I’ve gathered all the Varney posts together in a list under “Miscellany and Disasters,” which I think wholly appropriate.

At this point I'm going chapter by chapter, unless the chapters themselves are unusually short or I really want to spork the next part. The early posts were more fluid with regard to chapter delimitation. I am having way too much fun with this and plan to do the whole of the Gutenberg edition, which will probably take me several months, and am consummately okay with that.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

HOLLAND: Fuck off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"This is delightful, indeed," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Spoiler: He does not.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know you, sir, well."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I have—hit him."

"Yes, a capital shot, by Jove!"

"I am very sorry."

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

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

"The slugs have taken effect on his face."

"I know it—I know it. Don't tell me."

"He looks horrible."

"And I am a murderer."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Behold!" said Marchdale—"behold!"

"Heaven have mercy upon us!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, most completely."

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"I hope so."

"And yet it cannot much avail you."

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

"That I do not wonder at."

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

"It will be so."

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

just sayin'

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

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

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

"Kill him?"

"No, no."

"What then?"

"To set him free."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Was it very dreadful?"

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

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

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

"Yes, yes."

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

"How dreadful!"

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

"Ah, to be sure."

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

"What a situation!"

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

"What an escape!"

"No, it was not."

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

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

"How terrific!"

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

"What a moment!"

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

"Horrid, horrid!"

"Take a drop of ale."

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

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

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

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

"Then it was not the vampire?"

"Certainly not."

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

"That's about it."

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

"Because that would have spoilt the story."


on the other hand, this is comedy gold:

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

sometimes it’s hard to tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We return to the gothic ruins, wherein a tall figure stands wrapped in a big cloak, checking his watch and bitching about people being late for meetings. It is extremely obvious who this person is, and yet Rymer/Prest pretend they are doing a Big Reveal at the end of this bit.

The watcher is at length rewarded by the approach of another set of footsteps, and seems to be less than thrilled:

But he who thus waited for some confederate among these dim and old grey ruins, advanced not a step to meet him. On the contrary, such seemed the amount of cold-blooded caution which he possessed, that the nearer the man—who was evidently advancing—got to the place, the further back did he who had preceded him shrink into the shadow of the dim and crumbling walls, which had, for some years now past, seemed to bend to the passing blast, and to be on the point of yielding to the destroying hand of time.

And yet, surely he needed not have been so cautious. Who was likely, at such an hour as that, to come to the ruins, but one who sought it by appointment?

And, moreover, the manner of the advancing man should have been quite sufficient to convince him who waited, that so much caution was unnecessary; but it was a part and parcel of his nature.


About three minutes more sufficed to bring the second man to the ruin, and he, at once, and fearlessly, plunged into its recesses.

"Who comes?" said the first man, in a deep, hollow voice.

"He whom you expect," was the reply.

"Good," he said, and at once he now emerged from his hiding-place, and they stood together in the nearly total darkness with which the place was enshrouded; for the night was a cloudy one, and there appeared not a star in the heavens, to shed its faint light upon the scene below.

For a few moments they were both silent, for he who had last arrived had evidently made great exertions to reach the spot, and was breathing laboriously, while he who was there first appeared, from some natural taciturnity of character, to decline opening the conversation.

“So who talks first? Do you talk first? Do I talk first?”

The newcomer says “ok I know I’m late but you need to know about this, the dumbass villagers are being dumbass again and someone’s on his way right now to meddle with you and/or me”:

"Explain yourself more fully."

"I will. At a tavern in the town, there has happened some strange scenes of violence, in consequence of the general excitement into which the common people have been thrown upon the dreadful subject of vampyres."


I can just hear him going “Well.” In my head Varney sometimes sounds a lot like James Mason.

"The consequence is, that numerous arrests have taken place, and the places of confinement for offenders against the laws are now full of those whose heated and angry imaginations have induced them to take violent steps to discover the reality or the falsehood of rumours which so much affected them, their wives, and their families, that they feared to lie down to their night's repose."

The other laughed a short, hollow, restless sort of laugh, which had not one particle of real mirth in it.

"Go on—go on," he said. "What did they do?"

"Immense excesses have been committed; but what made me, first of all, stay beyond my time, was that I overheard a man declare his intentions this night, from twelve till the morning, and for some nights to come, to hold watch and ward for the vampyre."


"Yes. He did but stay, at the earnest solicitation of his comrades, to take yet another glass, ere he came upon his expedition."

"He must be met. The idiot! what business is it of his?"

Why can’t the people just leave him alooooone it’s so unfair omg. They move farther into the ruins, and Varney can’t stop himself admitting he’s slightly chuffed about being considered so dangerous:

"I am annoyed, although the feeling reaches no further than annoyance, for I have a natural love of mischief, to think that my reputation has spread so widely, and made so much noise."

"Your reputation as a vampyre, Sir Francis Varney, you mean?"

"Yes; but there is no occasion for you to utter my name aloud, even here where we are alone together."

"It came out unawares."

And I’m wearing a wire. Have you guessed who Mysterious Stranger B is by now? He asks Varney what the plan is, and Varney’s like “lol”:

"Nay, you are my privy councillor. Have you no deep-laid, artful project in hand? Can you not plan and arrange something which may yet have the effect of accomplishing what at first seemed so very simple, but which has, from one unfortunate circumstance and another, become full of difficulty and pregnant with all sorts of dangers?"

"I must confess I have no plan."

"I listen with astonishment."

"Nay, now, you are jesting."

"When did you ever hear of me jesting?"


They have the most boring and incomprehensible conversation that anyone’s had in several pages, and incidentally show very clearly the importance of dialogue tags. You don’t need them for every single statement, because then the “said” repeats often enough that it becomes visible, but you bloody well do need some of them so that your reader doesn’t have to go back and highlight every other line like an actor memorizing their part in order to determine who is saying what. Mysterious Figure B interrogates Varney about his plans:

"You are, I presume, from what you say, provided with a scheme of action which shall present better hopes of success, at less risk, I hope. Look what great danger we have already passed through."

"Yes, we have."

"I pray you avoid that in the next campaign."

"It is not the danger that annoys and troubles me, but it is that, notwithstanding it, the object is as far off as ever from being attained."

"And not only so, but, as is invariably the case under such circumstances, we have made it more difficult of execution because we have put those upon their guard thoroughly who are the most likely to oppose us."

"We have—we have."

"And placed the probability of success afar off indeed."

"And yet I have set my life upon the cast, and I will stand the hazard. I tell you I will accomplish this object, or I will perish in the attempt."

"You are too enthusiastic."

Not the word I’d have used, because there is no evidence of enthusiasm in the wording of that sentence: there is determination, sure, and intensity, but more than a little bitterness.

Varney looks down his nose at MFB and says drily:

"Not at all. Nothing has been ever done, the execution of which was difficult, without enthusiasm. I will do what I intend, or Bannerworth Hall shall become a heap of ruins, where fire shall do its worst work of devastation, and I will myself find a grave in the midst."

"Well, I quarrel with no man for chalking out the course he intends to pursue; but what do you mean to do with the prisoner below here?"

"Kill him."


I love how MFB is like “good to have plans, dude”. Varney employs his trademark silky rudeness:

"When everything else is secured, and when the whole of that which I so much court, and which I will have, is in my possession, I will take his life, or you shall. Ay, you are just the man for such a deed. A smooth-faced, specious sort of roan are you, and you like not danger. There will be none in taking the life of a man who is chained to the floor of a dungeon."

"I know not why," said the other, "you take a pleasure on this particular night, of all others, in saying all you can which you think will be offensive to me."

Cause he’s Varney and that is precisely the manner in which he is wont to roll, catch up, guy.

"Now, how you wrong me. This is the reward of confidence."

"I don't want such confidence."

"Why, you surely don't want me to flatter you."

"No; but—"

"Psha! Hark you. That admiral is the great stumbling-block in my way. I should ere this have had undisturbed possession of Bannerworth Hall but for him. He must be got out of the way somehow."

And he sticks a masterful Changing The Subject Without Dealing With The Current Question. MFB parries with a nicely-executed truth bomb:

"In what way would you get rid of this troublesome admiral?"

"I scarcely know. A letter from his nephew might, if well put together, get him to London."

"I doubt it. I hate him mortally. He has offended me more than once most grievously."

"I know it. He saw through you."


"I do not give him so much credit. He is a suspicious man, and a vain and a jealous one."

"And yet he saw through you. Now, listen to me. You are completely at fault, and have no plan of operations whatever in your mind. What I want you to do is, to disappear from the neighbourhood for a time, and so will I. As for our prisoner here below, I cannot see what else can be done with him than—than—"

"Than what? Do you hesitate?"

God I love it when someone flat-out tells Varney he’s full of shit. MFB displays considerable acumen and initiative here, but because it’s this book these phenomena are transient in nature. He’s like “ok so you and I both know the quickest and easiest way of dealing with the problem of this kid, but I have this weird squeamish nope reaction to the idea of murdering him,” and Varney goes inscrutable:

“Be frank, and own that which it is in vain to conceal from me. I know you too well; arch hypocrite as you are, and fully capable of easily deceiving many, you cannot deceive me."

"I really cannot understand you."

Yeah, me neither.

"Then I will take care that you shall."


"Listen. I will not have the life of Charles Holland taken."

"Who wishes to take it?"


OH COME ON DUDE you were the one who even mentioned it in the first place, no one said anything about murdering anybody until MFB asked you what you wanted to do with the prisoner, can you just please try to stay consistent for the space of one whole scene? MFB is like “uh….”

"There, indeed, you wrong me. Unless you yourself thought that such an act was imperatively called for by the state of affairs, do you think that I would needlessly bring down upon my head the odium as well as the danger of such a deed? No, no. Let him live, if you are willing; he may live a thousand years for all I care."

"'Tis well. I am, mark me, not only willing, but I am determined that he shall live so far as we are concerned. I can respect the courage that, even when he considered that his life was at stake, enabled him to say no to a proposal which was cowardly and dishonourable, although it went far to the defeat of my own plans and has involved me in much trouble."

What is even your deal. I know I ask this all the time but seriously, this character is so completely inconsistent he gaslights himself into metaphorical fucking asphyxia.

It’s MFB’s turn to change the subject, and buckle up for another gorgeous example of Redundant Conversational Gambits Are Redundant:

"Hush! hush!"

"What is it?"

"I fancy I hear a footstep."

"Indeed; that were a novelty in such a place as this."

"And yet not more than I expected. Have you forgotten what I told you when I reached here to-night after the appointed hour?"

"Truly; I had for the moment. Do you think then that the footstep which now meets our ears, is that of the adventurer who boasted that he could keep watch for the vampyre?"

No, I think it’s Little Red Riding Hood, you twit.

"In faith do I. What is to be done with such a meddling fool?"

"He ought certainly to be taught not to be so fond of interfering with other people's affairs."


"Perchance the lesson will not be wholly thrown away upon others. It may be worth while to take some trouble with this poor valiant fellow, and let him spread his news so as to stop any one else from being equally venturous and troublesome."

"A good thought."

"Shall it be done?"

"Yes; if you will arrange that which shall accomplish such a result."

"Be it so. The moon rises soon."

"It does."

I challenge you to read this aloud with a completely straight face, super-dramatically, and see how far you get before you collapse in mirth. Then we have this line, which I cannot possibly read as anything other than sarcastic as fuck:

"Ah, already I fancy I see a brightening of the air as if the mellow radiance of the queen of night were already quietly diffusing itself throughout the realms of space. Come further within the ruins."

And the big reveal:

Varney, the vampyre, who had been holding this conversation with no other than Marchdale, smiled as he, in a whispered voice, told the latter what to do in order to frighten away from the place the foolhardy man who thought that, by himself, he should be able to accomplish anything against the vampyre.


It was, indeed, a hare-brained expedition, for whether Sir Francis Varney was really so awful and preternatural a being as so many concurrent circumstances would seem to proclaim, or not, he was not a likely being to allow himself to be conquered by anyone individual, let his powers or his courage be what they might.

Except he can’t fucking climb over a wall and he keeps getting shot all the time and the only really fearsome thing he’s ever done is chomp Flora a million chapters ago. Literally. I can’t think of anything else that’s anything more than obnoxious.

What induced this man to become so ventursome we shall now proceed to relate, as well as what kind of reception he got in the old ruins, which, since the mysterious disappearance of Sir Francis Varney within their recesses, had possessed so increased a share of interest and attracted so much popular attention and speculation.

Which is Rymer/Prest’s “Next time on Varney the Vampyre,” and a good place to pause.

"I propose that we procure two scythes," or, Varney the Vampyre Acts More Inexplicably than Usual

Apologies for the delay: real life interveneth from time to time.

Previously on: the admiral and Chillingworth set up an incompetent ambush to catch Varney breaking into Bannerworth Hall; Varney runs away again; Varney for some unknowable reason invites them to breakfast via a note thrown over the garden gate.

We left our secondary heroes arguing over whether to take him up on the invitation. Chillingworth thinks it’s bullshit, but the admiral is determined, and consequently they betake themselves to the house Varney’s staying in due to his own having been torched by angry mobs. He receives them coolly enough:

Sir Francis Varney sat with his back towards this second door, and a table, with some chairs and other articles of furniture, were so arranged before him, that while they seemed but to be carelessly placed in the position they occupied, they really formed a pretty good barrier between him and his visitors.

The admiral, however, was too intent upon getting a sight of Varney, to notice any preparation of this sort, and he advanced quickly into the room.

And there, indeed, was the much dreaded, troublesome, persevering, and singular looking being who had caused such a world of annoyance to the family of the Bannerworths, as well as disturbing the peace of the whole district, which had the misfortune to have him as an inhabitant.

If anything, he looked thinner, taller, and paler than usual, and there seemed to be a slight nervousness of manner about him, as he slowly inclined his head towards the admiral, which was not quite intelligible.

Not even Varney seems to know what the hell he wants out of this interview.

"Well," said Admiral Bell, "you invited me to breakfast, and my learned friend; here we are."

"No two human beings," said Varney, "could be more welcome to my hospitality than yourself and Dr. Chillingworth. I pray you to be seated. What a pleasant thing it is, after the toils and struggles of this life, occasionally to sit down in the sweet companionship of such dear friends."

He made a hideous face as he spoke, and the admiral looked as if he were half inclined to quarrel at that early stage of the proceedings.

Seriously, dude, what is your deal. He summons the help, who arrives with a breakfast tray.

"Deborah," said Sir Varney, in a mild sort of tone, "keep on continually bringing things to eat until this old brutal sea ruffian has satiated his disgusting appetite."

The admiral opened his eyes an enormous width, and, looking at Sir Francis Varney, he placed his two fists upon the table, and drew a long breath.

"Did you address those observations to me," he said, at length, "you blood-sucking vagabond?"

"Eh?" said Sir Francis Varney, looking over the admiral's head, as if he saw something interesting on the wall beyond.


Chillingworth is still the Only Sane Person(TM), and Varney moves on to insulting him instead:

"My dear admiral," said Mr. Chillingworth, "come away."

"I'll see you d——d first!" said the admiral. "Now, Mr. Vampyre, no shuffling; did you address those observations to me?"

"Deborah," said Sir Francis Varney, in silvery tones, "you can remove this tray and bring on the next."

"Not if I know it," said the admiral "I came to breakfast, and I'll have it; after breakfast I'll pull your nose—ay, if you were fifty vampyres, I'd do it."

"Dr. Chillingworth," said Varney, without paying the least attention to what the admiral said, "you don't eat, my dear sir; you must be fatigued with your night's exertions. A man of your age, you know, cannot be supposed to roll and tumble about like a fool in a pantomime with impunity. Only think what a calamity it would be if you were laid up. Your patients would all get well, you know."

Chillingworth is like really, dude?:

"Sir Francis Varney," said Mr. Chillingworth, "we're your guests; we come here at your invitation to partake of a meal. You have wantonly attacked both of us. I need not say that by so doing you cast a far greater slur upon your own taste and judgment than you can upon us."

"Admirably spoken," said Sir Francis Varney, giving his hands a clap together that made the admiral jump again. "Now, old Bell, I'll fight you, if you think yourself aggrieved, while the doctor sees fair play."

It is impossible to tell, because this is this book, whether Varney actually wants to fight him in order to kill him, or if he’s just being a dick because he can (and the admiral is super easy to infuriate):

"Old who?" shouted the admiral.

"Bell, Bell—is not your name Bell?—a family cognomen, I presume, on account of the infernal clack, clack, without any sense in it, that is the characteristic of your race."

"You'll fight me?" said the admiral, jumping up.

"Yes; if you challenge me."

"By Jove I do; of course."

Chillingworth again points out that this is stupid, but Bell will not be dissuaded. Because Varney is the challenged party, he gets to pick the weapon, and of course he picks something hilarious:

"In this mansion," said Sir Francis Varney—"for a mansion it is, although under the unpretending name of a lodge—in this mansion there is a large apartment which was originally fitted up by a scientific proprietor of the place, for the purpose of microscopic and other experiments, which required a darkness total and complete, such a darkness as seems as if it could be felt—palpable, thick, and obscure as the darkness of the tomb, and I know what that is."

"The devil you do!" said the admiral. "It's damp, too, ain't it?"

"The room?"

"No; the grave."

"Oh! uncommonly, after autumnal rains.”

I hate it when your grave gets flooded, it’s so inconvenient.

“But to resume—this room is large, lofty, and perfectly empty."


"I propose that we procure two scythes."

"Two what?"

"Scythes, with their long handles, and their convenient holding places."

"Well, I'll be hanged! What next do you propose?"

"You may be hanged. The next is, that with these scythes we be both of us placed in the darkened room, and the door closed, and doubly locked upon us for one hour, and that then and there we do our best each to cut the other in two. If you succeed in dismembering me, you will have won the day; but I hope, from my superior agility"—here Sir Francis jumped upon his chair, and sat upon the back of it—"to get the better of you. How do you like the plan I have proposed? Does it meet your wishes?"

Varney’s just been rendered effectively homeless by the actions of an angry mob, and escaped capture by these two the previous night simply due to the fact that they suck at catching vampyres, and instead of doing what a sensible creature would do such as laying low for a while and not being noticeable until some of the heat is off, he’s playing silly buggers. This is actually a fairly standard vampire trope: they seem to want to get caught from the way they behave, as if to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.

The admiral chinhands, and Varney absconds, and no one knows what the fuck, basically.

"Curse your impudence!" said the admiral, placing his elbows upon the table and resting his chin in astonishment upon his two hands.

"Nay," interrupted Sir Francis, "you challenged me; and, besides, you'll have an equal chance, you know that. If you succeed in striking me first, down I go; whereas it I succeed in striking you first, down you go."

As he spoke, Sir Francis Varney stretched out his foot, and closed a small bracket which held out the flap of the table on which the admiral was leaning, and, accordingly, down the admiral went, tea-tray and all.

Mr. Chillingworth ran to help him up, and, when they both recovered their feet, they found they were alone.

Chillingworth is like let’s get the hell out of here, what if he comes back with a scythe and turns the lights out, but before they can leave yet another person is announced, a Mr. Mortimer.

(The name Mortimer will crop up again, much later in these proceedings.)

The admiral is all who the fuck are you but Chillingworth clearly recognizes Mortimer, and is astonished to see him there:

There walked past the woman a stout, portly-looking man, well dressed, but with a very odd look upon his face, in consequence of an obliquity of vision, which prevented the possibility of knowing which way he was looking.

"I must see him," he said; "I must see him."

Mr. Chillingworth started back as if in amazement.

"Good God!" he cried, "you here!"

"Confusion!" said Mortimer; "are you Dr.—— Dr.——"


"The same. Hush! there is no occasion to betray—that is, to state my secret."

"And mine, too," said Chillingworth. "But what brings you here?"

"I cannot and dare not tell you. Farewell!"


But before Mortimer can make his escape YET ANOTHER person shows up, someone we know: Henry Bannerworth. Consternation and to-do, and then this amazing conversation which I will reproduce in full, because it’s too good not to:

"Bannerworth!" said Mortimer; "is that young man's name Bannerworth?"

"Yes," said Henry. "Do you know me, sir?"

"No, no; only I—I—must be off. Does anybody know anything of Sir Francis Varney?"

"We did know something of him," said the admiral, "a little while ago; but he's taken himself off. Don't you do so likewise. If you've got anything to say, stop and say it, like an Englishman."

"Stuff! stuff!" said Mortimer, impatiently. "What do you all want here?"

"Why, Sir Francis Varney," said Henry,—"and I care not if the whole world heard it—is the persecutor of my family."

"How? in what way?"

"He has the reputation of a vampyre; he has hunted me and mine from house and home."


"Yes," cried Dr. Chillingworth; "and, by some means or another, he seems determined to get possession of Bannerworth Hall."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mortimer, "I promise you that I will inquire into this. Mr. Chillingworth, I did not expect to meet you. Perhaps the least we say to each other is, after all, the better."

"Let me ask but one question," said Dr. Chillingworth, imploringly.

"Ask it."

"Did he live after—"

"Hush! he did."

"You always told me to the contrary."

"Yes; I had an object; the game is up. Farewell; and, gentlemen, as I am making my exit, let me do so with a sentiment:—Society at large is divided into two great classes."

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

"Those who have been hanged, and those who have not. Adieu!"

The more perspicacious among us will have started putting things together. When this twist is revealed it is going to annoy and also amuse, as another example of Rymer/Prest cribbing off more well-known classic horror novels.

He turned and left the room; and Mr. Chillingworth sunk into a chair, and said, in a low voice,—

"It's uncommonly true; and I've found out an acquaintance among the former."


"-D—n it! you seem all mad," said the admiral. "I can't make out what you are about. How came you here, Mr. Henry Bannerworth?"

"By mere accident I heard," said Henry, "that you were keeping watch and ward in the Hall. Admiral, it was cruel, and not well done of you, to attempt such an enterprise without acquainting me with it. Did you suppose for a moment that I, who had the greatest interest in this affair, would have shrunk from danger, if danger there be; or lacked perseverance, if that quality were necessary in carrying out any plan by which the safety and honour of my family might be preserved?"

"Nay, now, my young friend," said Mr. Chillingworth.

"Nay, sir; but I take it ill that I should have been kept out of this affair; and it should have been sedulously, as it were, kept a secret from me."

Kid’s got a point. Chillingworth is like “we gotta get out of here”:

“Let me beg of you all to come away; and believe me that I do not speak lightly, or with a view to get you from here, when I say, that after I have heard something from you, Henry, which I shall ask you to relate to me, painful though it may be, I shall be able to suggest some explanation of many things which appear at present obscure, and to put you in a course of freeing you from the difficulties which surround you, which, Heaven knows, I little expected I should have it in my power to propose to any of you."

Henry says uh, okay, sure? as if he’s not sure what the doctor will ask.

"To what does it relate?" said Henry. "You may be assured, Mr. Chillingworth, that I am not likely to refuse my confidence to you, whom I have so much reason to respect as an attached friend of myself and my family."

and immediately thereafter, without it being explained in any way:

"Why, sir, the fact is," said Henry, "that what I am about to relate to you consists not so much of secrets as of matters which would be painful to my feelings to talk of more than may be absolutely required."


Anyway, they all troop off back to Bannerworth Hall and sit in the storied summerhouse, which as Henry relates happens to be where his dad committed suicide, aww, nostalgia. Henry tells them all about what an asshole his dad was and how he racked up gambling debt upon gambling debt and behaved irresponsibly in every way. At one point he vanished for two months:

"What occurred to him during that time we none of us ever knew, but late one night he came home, apparently much flurried in manner, and seeming as if something had happened to drive him half mad.

"He would not speak to any one, but he shut himself up the whole of the night in the chamber where hangs the portrait that bears so strong a resemblance to Sir Francis Varney, and there he remained till the morning, when he emerged, and said briefly that he intended to leave the country.

"He was in a most fearful state of nervousness, and my mother tells me that he shook like one in an ague, and started at every little sound that occurred in the house, and glared about him so wildly that it was horrible to see him, or to sit in the same apartment with him.

"She says that the whole morning passed on in this way till a letter came to him, the contents of which appeared to throw him into a perfect convulsion of terror, and he retired again to the room with the portrait, where he remained some hours, and then he emerged, looking like a ghost, so dreadfully pale and haggard was he.

"He walked into the garden here, and was seen to sit down in this summer-house, and fix his eyes upon the window of that apartment."

Henry paused for a few moments, and then he added,—

"You will excuse me from entering upon any details of what next ensued in the melancholy history. My father here committed suicide. He was found dying, and all I he words he spoke were, 'The money is hidden!' Death claimed his victim, and, with a convulsive spasm, he resigned his spirit, leaving what he had intended to say hidden in the oblivion of the grave."

"That was an odd affair," said the admiral.

It suuuure was. Henry says they think he killed himself because of mental instability and guilt and general moral turpitude, but the doctor has more information:

"I do not mean," remarked Mr. Chillingworth, "for one moment to attempt to dispute, Henry, the rationality of such an opinion as you have just given utterance to; but you forget that another circumstance occurred, which gave a colour to the words used by your father."

"Yes; I know to what you allude."

"Be so good as to state it to the admiral."

"I will. On the evening of that same day there came a man here, who, in seeming ignorance of what had occurred, although by that time it was well known to all the neighbourhood, asked to see my father.

"Upon being told that he was dead, he started back, either with well acted or with real surprise, and seemed to be immensely chagrined. He then demanded to know if he had left any disposition of his property; but he got no information, and departed muttering the most diabolical oaths and curses that can be imagined. He mounted his horse, for he had ridden to the Hall and his last words were, as I am told—

"'Where, in the name of all that's damnable, can he have put the money!'"

"And did you never find out who this man was?" asked the admiral.


"It is an odd affair."

Okay, but was the affair odd? I’m not quite sure whether it was odd or not, what kind of affair we’re talking about, can someone clear that up for me?

The affair, which might have been an odd one, was largely overshadowed in the public mind because of a handy murder:

"Yes," said Henry; "it so happened that about that very time a murder was committed in the neighbourhood of London, which baffled all the exertions of the authorities to discover the perpetrators of. It was the murder of Lord Lorne."

"Oh! I remember," said the admiral; "the newspapers were full of it for a long time."

"They were; and so, as Mr. Chillingworth says, the more exciting interest which that affair created drew off public attention, in a great measure, from my father's suicide, and we did not suffer so much from public remark and from impertinent curiosity as might have been expected."

"And, in addition," said Mr. Chillingworth, and he changed colour a little as he spoke, "there was an execution shortly afterwards."

"Yes," said Henry, "there was."

"The execution of a man named Angerstein," added Mr. Chillingworth, "for a highway robbery, attended with the most brutal violence."

"True; all the affairs of that period of time are strongly impressed upon my mind," said Henry; "but you do not seem well, Mr. Chillingworth."

"Oh, yes; I am quite well—you are mistaken."

No you’re not, dude. You are having The Complicated Feelings. Jack Pringle shows up to completely destroy the pacing and flow of the scene, and having achieved this, goes away again; the doctor asks Henry and the admiral to let him stay at the Hall for a week.

"What for?"

"I hope to make some discoveries connected with it which shall well reward you for the trouble."

"It's no trouble," said Henry; "and for myself, I have amply sufficient faith, both in your judgment and in your friendship, doctor, to accede to any request which you may make to me."

"And I," said the admiral. "Be it so—be it so. For one week, you say?"

"Yes—for one week. I hope, by the end of that time, to have achieved something worth the telling you of; and I promise you that, if I am at all disappointed in my expectation, that I will frankly and freely communicate to you all I know and all I suspect."

Everyone agrees on this course of action, and Chillingworth insists that the Hall not be left empty at all for the near future, so he’s going to stay there while the others go get him some food and supplies and so on. Again, we’re fairly heavily foreshadowed here, but there’s still some mystery left (largely because the authors are so enormously terrible at their jobs).

Next time: BACK TO THE SPOOKY RUIN and figures standing around in cloaks waiting for one another to show up and have an Ominous Conversation.

"We Have Committed a Great Mistake," or, Varney the Vampyre and the Inept Ambush

One of the chapters in today’s recap is titled THE ARRIVAL OF JACK PRINGLE.—MIDNIGHT AND THE VAMPYRE.—THE MYSTERIOUS HAT. What about the hat is mysterious? you ask.


come on, dudes, are you just randomly making shit up that has nothing to do with the chapters, arrrgh

Previously on: the angry mob burns down Varney’s house; Varney disappears into thin air; much discussion is had of leaving Bannerworth Hall.

We resume with even more discussion of leaving Bannerworth Hall oh my god these people take FOREVER to do anything. At extreme length, with much incomprehensible naval byplay, Jack gets them into a coach and drives them to an undisclosed location:

"Up the garden if you please, ma'am—as quick as you can; the night air is very cold."

Flora and her mother and brother took the hint, which was meant by Jack to mean that they were not to be seen outside. They at once entered a pretty garden, and then they came to a very neat and picturesque cottage. They had no time to look up at it, as the door was immediately opened by an elderly female, who was intended to wait upon them.

"Well," said Flora, "this is very thoughtful of the admiral. The place will really be charming, and the garden, too, delightful."

So that’s all right, then. Meanwhile, back at Bannerworth Hall:

It is now quite night, and so peculiar and solemn a stillness reigns in and about Bannerworth Hall and its surrounding grounds, that one might have supposed it a place of the dead, deserted completely after sunset by all who would still hold kindred with the living. There was not a breath of air stirring, and this circumstance added greatly to the impression of profound repose which the whole scene exhibited.

Admiral Bell and Chillingworth are sitting in the room traditionally reserved for vampyre target-shooting through the window, waiting in the dark and drinking. Chillingworth isn’t having a great time, but the admiral is totally enjoying this:

"I do hope," said Mr. Chillingworth, after a long pause, "that our efforts will be crowned with success—you know, my dear sir, that I have always been of your opinion, that there was a great deal more in this matter than met the eye."

"To be sure," said the admiral, "and as to our efforts being crowned with success, why, I'll give you a toast, doctor, 'may the morning's reflection provide for the evening's amusement.'"

"Ha! ha!" said Chillingworth, faintly; "I'd rather not drink any more, and you seem, admiral, to have transposed the toast in some way. I believe it runs, 'may the evening's amusement bear the morning's reflection.'"

"Transpose the devil!" said the admiral; "what do I care how it runs? I gave you my toast, and as to that you mention, it's another one altogether, and a sneaking, shore-going one too: but why don't you drink?"

"Why, my dear sir, medically speaking, I am strongly of opinion that, when the human stomach is made to contain a large quantity of alcohol, it produces bad effects upon the system. Now, I've certainly taken one glass of this infernally strong Hollands, and it is now lying in my stomach like the red-hot heater of a tea-urn."

"Is it? put it out with another, then."

Chillingworth questions the necessity of their sitting up all night here, the first night the Hall is empty, and yet again there is heated agreement over the fact that Varney clearly wants the Hall and is therefore likely to take advantage of its apparent emptiness, and so on and so forth. The admiral has rigged up a very basic alarm system to warn them if anybody tries to get in, to wit: locking all the windows but one, and putting a bunch of crockery just inside that one so that an intruder would necessarily cause a hell of a lot of smashy-smashy noise; this occurs; it turns out that the intruder is a cat, not a Varney.

Jack Pringle arrives, having stopped off on the way to get stinking drunk against the admiral’s orders, and they have a fight about it; Jack passes out:

"So far, so good," said the admiral. "He's out of the way, at all events."

"I'll just loosen his neckcloth," said Mr. Chillingworth, "and then we'll go and sit somewhere else; and I should recommend that, if anywhere, we take up our station in that chamber, once Flora's, where the mysterious panelled portrait hangs, that bears so strong a resemblance to Varney, the vampyre."

"Hush!" said the admiral. "What's that?"

They listened for a moment intently; and then, distinctly, upon the gravel path outside the window, they heard a footstep, as if some person were walking along, not altogether heedlessly, but yet without any very great amount of caution or attention to the noise he might make.

"Hist!" said the doctor. "Not a word. They come."

"What do you say they for?" said the admiral.

"Because something seems to whisper me that Mr. Marchdale knows more of Varney, the vampyre, than ever he has chosen to reveal. Put out the light."

I told you Chillingworth was the smartest of the bunch, not that that’s saying a great deal. (Apparently it is now de rigueur to add “, the vampyre” every time Varney’s name is spoken aloud.) They know where the intruders are heading:

"My life on it," said Mr. Chillingworth as they left the apartment, "if this be Varney, he makes for that apartment where Flora slept, and which he knows how to get admission to. I've studied the house well, admiral, and to get to that window any one from here outside must take a considerable round. Come on—we shall be beforehand."

"A good idea—a good idea. Be it so."

Just allowing themselves sufficient light to guide them on the way from the lantern, they hurried on with as much precipitation as the intricacies of the passage would allow, nor halted till they had reached the chamber were hung the portrait which bore so striking and remarkable a likeness to Varney, the vampyre.

Yup, every time. At this point Rymer/Prest get one of their few but present moments of actually unnerving description:

"Do you think," said the admiral, "we've distanced them?"

"Certainly we have. It's unlucky that the blind of the window is down."

"Is it? By Heaven, there's a d——d strange-looking shadow creeping over it."

Mr. Chillingworth looked almost with suspended breath. Even he could not altogether get rid of a tremulous feeling, as he saw that the shadow of a human form, apparently of very large dimensions, was on the outside, with the arms spread out, as if feeling for some means of opening the window.

They watch while it goes about its task:

There was a strange cracking sound at the window, as if a pane of glass was being very stealthily and quietly broken; and then the blind was agitated slightly, confusing much the shadow that was cast upon it, as if the hand of some person was introduced for the purpose of effecting a complete entrance into the apartment.

"He's coming in," whispered the admiral.

"Hush, for Heaven's sake!" said Mr. Chillingworth; "you will alarm him, and we shall lose the fruit of all the labour we have already bestowed upon the matter; but did you not say something, admiral, about lying under the window and catching him by the leg?"

Aaaaaand there we go, back to risibility. They just cannot keep the tone straight, and I don’t think it’s on purpose.

"Why, yes; I did."

"Go and do it, then; for, as sure as you are a living man, his leg will be in in a minute."

"Here goes," said the admiral; "I never suggest anything which I'm unwilling to do myself."

Whoever it was that now was making such strenuous exertions to get into the apartment seemed to find some difficulty as regarded the fastenings of the window, and as this difficulty increased, the patience of the party, as well as his caution deserted him, and the casement was rattled with violence.

Varney can’t even climb into a goddamn window with any grace. He’s a vampyre, he’s supposed to be inhumanly quick and strong and stylish as hell, and he’s rattling the window because dammit he can’t get insiiiide. Eventually it opens:

Mr. Chillingworth saw, by the moonlight, a tall, gaunt figure standing in the balcony, as if just hesitating for a moment whether to get head first or feet first into the apartment.

Had he chosen the former alternative he would need, indeed, to have been endowed with more than mortal powers of defence and offence to escape capture, but his lucky star was in the ascendancy, and he put his foot in first.

He turned his side to the apartment and, as he did so, the bright moonlight fell upon his face, enabling Mr. Chillingworth to see, without the shadow of a doubt, that it was, indeed, Varney, the vampyre, who was thus stealthily making his entrance into Bannerworth Hall, according to the calculation which had been made by the admiral upon that subject. The doctor scarcely knew whether to be pleased or not at this discovery; it was almost a terrifying one, sceptical as he was upon the subject of vampyres, and he waited breathless for the issue of the singular and perilous adventure.

He stick his legy out real far, and the admiral grabs his boot; unfortunately Varney is not completely stupid, and makes good his escape, one boot short. There follows a truly incomprehensible Three Stooges scene in which gunfire is exchanged out the window, various objects are thrown into the window, including part of a tree, there is much yelling, and it turns out that the person shooting at them from the garden was in fact a confused Jack Pringle. All of this is very confusing and unnecessary, but it comes to an end just in time for this to occur:

At this instant there was a strange hissing sound heard below the window; then there was a sudden, loud report, as if a hand-grenade had gone off. A spectral sort of light gleamed into the room, and a tall, gaunt-looking figure rose slowly up in the balcony.

"Beware of the dead!" said a voice. "Let the living contend with the living, the dead with the dead. Beware!"

The figure disappeared, as did also the strange, spectral-looking light. A death-like silence ensued, and the cold moonbeams streamed in upon the floor of the apartment, as if nothing had occurred to disturb the wrapped repose and serenity of the scene.

Ooookay then.

They apparently don’t waste time discussing this apparition, instead choosing to conduct a post-mortem on the night’s attempted activities. Chillingworth, again, is the brain trust of the group.

"Why, we ought to have watched outside the house, instead of within it. There can be no doubt that if we had lain in wait in the garden, we should have been in a better position to have accomplished our object."

"Well, I don't know, doctor, but it seems to me that if Jack Pringle hadn't made such a fool of himself, we should have managed very well: and I don't know now how he came to behave in the manner he did."

"Nor I," said Mr. Chillingworth. "But, at all events, so far as the result goes, it is quite clear that any further watching, in this house, for the appearance of Sir Francis Varney, will now be in vain. He has nothing to do now but to keep quiet until we are tired out—a fact, concerning which he can easily obtain information—and then he immediately, without trouble, walks into the premises, to his own satisfaction."

"But what the deuce can he want upon the premises?"

"That question, admiral, induces me to think that we have made another mistake. We ought not to have attempted to surprise Sir Francis Varney in coming into Bannerworth Hall, but to catch him as he came out."

That would have been a much better idea. They decide they’d better tell Henry about what’s happened and ask him what he thinks they ought to do, and are discussing breakfast and bickering amongst themselves when someone rings the bell at the gate, throws a note over into the garden, and runs away.

The admiral, after looking at it for some time with very great wonder, came at last to the conclusion that probably to open it would be the shortest way of arriving at a knowledge of who had sent it, and he accordingly did so.

The leap of intellect, it is staggering.

The note was as follows:—

"My dear sir,—Feeling assured that you cannot be surrounded with those means and appliances for comfort in the Hall, in its now deserted condition, which you have a right to expect, and so eminently deserve, I flatter myself that I shall receive an answer in the affirmative, when I request the favour of your company to breakfast, as well as that of your learned friend. Mr. Chillingworth.

"In consequence of a little accident which occurred last evening to my own residence, I am, ad interim, until the county build it up for me again, staying at a house called Walmesley Lodge, where I shall expect you with all the impatience of one soliciting an honour, and hoping that it will be conferred upon him.

"I trust that any little difference of opinion on other subjects will not interfere to prevent the harmony of our morning's meal together.

"Believe me to be, my dear sir, with the greatest possible consideration, your very obedient, humble servant,


The admiral gasped again, and looked at Mr. Chillingworth, and then at the note, and then at Mr. Chillingworth again, as if he was perfectly bewildered.

"That's about the coolest piece of business," said Mr. Chillingworth, "that ever I heard of."

"Hang me," said the admiral, "if I sha'n't like the fellow at last. It is cool, and I like it because it is cool. Where's my hat? where's my stick!"

Chillingworth is like “you’re kidding, right?” but the admiral is determined to breakfast with a vampyre, and the chapter comes to a close.

Next time: Varney the Vampyre Is A Real Dick, News At 11.

REAL ESTATE DECISIONS OMG, or, Varney the Vampyre Doesn't Do A Whole Lot

So I’m writing this on the train. NYCC was amazing — I had a lovely time, and now I am entertaining myself on the way back south.

Previously on: Varney has agreed to fight both Henry and the admiral in duels; only one of these long-arranged logistical feats has occurred when A FEARSOME MOB appears, bent on destroying the vampyre. Sir Francis beats feet for the local gothic ruins wherein lies the Prisoner, and they engage in a scuffle. Meanwhile the angry mob gets drunk and goes to dig up some dude’s coffin, only to detect that rather than a corpse OR a vampire, it contains…a brick.

We return to Bannerworth Hall, where the family is still dithering over whether or not to run away. Henry doesn’t wanna, but is going to anyway.

“I must confess that I would fain have clung with a kind of superstitious reverence to this ancient abiding-place of my race, but it may not be so. Those, perchance, who are more practically able to come to correct conclusions, in consequence of their feelings not being sufficiently interested to lead them astray, have decided otherwise; and, therefore, I am content to leave."

"Do not grieve at it, Henry. There has hung a cloud of misfortune over us all since the garden of this house became the scene of an event which we can none of us remember but with terror and shuddering."

"Two generations of our family must live and die before the remembrance of that circumstance can be obliterated. But we will think of it no more."

There can be no doubt but that the dreadful circumstance to which both Mrs. Bannerworth and Henry alluded, was the suicide of the father of the family in the gardens which before has been hinted at in the course of this narration, as being a circumstance which had created a great sensation at the time, and cast a great gloom for many months over the family.

The reader will, doubtless, too, recollect that, at his last moments, this unhappy individual was said to have uttered some incoherent words about some hidden money, and that the rapid hand of death alone seemed to prevent him from being explicit upon that subject, and left it merely a matter of conjecture.

As years had rolled on, this affair, even as a subject of speculation, had ceased to occupy the minds of any of the Bannerworth family, and several of their friends, among whom was Mr. Marchdale, were decidedly of opinion that the apparently pointed and mysterious words uttered, were but the disordered wanderings of an intellect already hovering on the confines of eternity.

Indeed, far from any money, of any amount, being a disturbance to the last moments of the dissolute man, whose vices and extravagances had brought his family, to such ruin, it was pretty generally believed that he had committed suicide simply from a conviction of the impossibility of raising any more supplies of cash, to enable him to carry on the career which he had pursued for so long.

But to resume.

Rymer/Prest actually say that, “to resume,” as if they have the faintest hint of self-awareness. It’s almost cute. Chillingworth tells the Admiral all about the goings-on in town and how the disturbance has required that the authorities send for backup, and he tells Henry to get out of there lest things get even dicier for them:

"Why, it's a sure going proverb to say, that a nod's as good as a wink; but, the fact is, it's getting rather too well known to be pleasant, that a vampyre has struck up rather a close acquaintance with your family. I understand there's a precious row in the town."


"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!"


They stake the random dead guy, and of course there are rumors that the body uttered a terrible groan at the hammering in of the stake (credible, corpses totally make sounds after death, gas escaping, etc) or that the countenance became distorted with agony and the limbs writhed and so on. The soldiers who have been sent to quell the mob arrive soon afterward and are horrified and sickened at the sight of the violated body, understandably enough, and now we do a complicated and unnecessary rapid flicking back and forth between the mob hiding in the inn against the wrath of the soldiers and the mob not hiding in the inn who decide hey, why not, let’s go burn down the vampyre’s house, it’s just that kind of a night.

But it is necessary, now that we have disposed of the smaller number of rioters who committed so serious an outrage at the inn, that we should, with some degree of method, follow the proceedings of the larger number, who went from the town towards Sir Francis Varney's.

These persons either had information of a very positive nature, or a very strong suspicion that, notwithstanding the mysterious and most unaccountable disappearance of the vampyre in the old ruin, he would now be found, as usual, at his own residence.

Off they go, and hit upon the cunning plan of knocking on the door to gain admittance:

They had abundant faith, from experience, of the resources in the way of escape of Sir Francis Varney, and not one among them was there who considered that there was any chance of capturing him, except by surprise, and when once they got hold of him, they determined he should not easily slip through their fingers.

The knock for admission produced no effect; and, after waiting three or four minutes, it was very provoking to find such a wonderful amount of caution and cunning completely thrown away.

At this point a servant opens a little wicket-gate in the main door and asks them what the fuck they want; they ask if Varney is at home; he declines to answer and tells them to go away. This causes consternation and lengthy discussion amongst the members of the mob, whom at this point I cannot help but picture with knotted handkerchiefs on their heads a la the Python Gumbys.

"I wish we could get in."

"But how is a question I don't very well see," said a large specimen of humanity.

"The best thing that can be done will be to go round and look over the whole house, and then we may come upon some part where it is far easier to get in at than by the front door."

Instead they decide to try knocking again. I cannot get over these people.

The big countryman left the main body, and resolutely walked up to the main avenue, and approached the door, accompanied by about a dozen or less of the mob. When they came to the door, they commenced knocking and kicking most violently, and assailing it with all kinds of things they could lay their hands upon.

They continued at this violent exercise for some time—perhaps for five minutes, when the little square hole in the door was again opened, and a voice was heard to say,—

"You had better cease that kind of annoyance."

"We want to get in."

"It will cost you more lives to do so than you can afford to spare. We are well armed, and are prepared to resist any effort you can make."

"Oh! it's all very well; but, an you won't open, why we'll make you; that's all about it."

This was said as the big countryman and his companions were leaving the avenue towards the rest of the body.

At this point the servant inside discharges a blunderbuss through the little wicket-gate in the door. This goes on for some time before they split up and start using battering rams to force their way in, which eventually works. It’s just so embarrassing, the whole thing.

The fact was, a party of the mob had clambered up a verandah, and entered some of the rooms upstairs, whence they emerged just above the landing near the spot where the servants were resisting in a mass the efforts of the mob.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above.

There was a momentary pause, and the servants divided themselves into two bodies, and one turned to face those above, and the other those who were below.

A simultaneous shout was given by both parties of the mob, and a sudden rush was made by both bodies, and the servants of Sir Francis Varney were broken in an instant. They were instantly separated, and knocked about a good bit, but they were left to shift for themselves, the mob had a more important object in view.

"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.

"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they, and they rushed helter skelter through the rooms, until they came to one where the door was partially open, and they could see some person very leisurely seated.

"Here he is," they cried.

"Who? who?"

"The vampire."

"Down with him! kill him! burn him!"

"Hurrah! down with the vampire!"

In the heat of the moment they forget how to spell him. Eventually after a lot more of this nonsense they locate a person calmly sitting in an armchair.

The room was well filled with furniture, and there was a curtain drawn across the room, and about the middle of it there was a table, behind which sat Sir Francis Varney himself, looking all smiles and courtesy.

"Well, dang my smock-frock!" said one, "who'd ha' thought of this? He don't seem to care much about it."

"Well, I'm d——d!" said another; "he seems pretty easy, at all events. What is he going to do?"

"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest smiles, "pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension on your part. The visit is kind."

The mob looked at Sir Francis, and then at each other, and then at Sir Francis again; but nobody spoke. They were awed by this gentlemanly and collected behaviour.

"If you honour me with this visit from pure affection and neighbourly good-will, I thank you."

"Down with the vampyre!" said one, who was concealed behind the rest, and not so much overawed, as he had not seen Sir Francis.

There’s always one. Varney smiles at them, showing his teeth, and slips behind a curtain.

"Down with the vampyre!" rang through the apartment; and the mob now, not awed by the coolness and courtesy of Sir Francis, rushed forward, and, overturning the table, tore down the curtain to the floor; but, to their amazement, there was no Sir Francis Varney present.

"Where is he?"

"Where is the vampyre?"

"Where has he gone?"

These were cries that escaped every one's lips; and yet no one could give an answer to them.

Which, okay, it’s either that he has a secret passageway or he can do one of the vampire shapeshift things that show up across the canon: some vampires can become mist, most can do the bat thing, some can be wolves. It’s completely unclear from context how Varney manages his disappearance, and because Rymer/Prest suck at this, the uncertainty is not an enjoyable mystery for the audience so much as a “what the fuck just happened” moment.

Meanwhile the mob decides to search the cellars, ostensibly to find the vampyre but mostly to get wasted on Varney’s considerable wine collection, preparatory to setting the house on fire, which they do with gusto. When the soldiers arrive it’s completely engulfed in flames and there’s no hope of saving anything:

The officer gazed for some moments upon the burning pile without speaking; and then, turning to the next in command, he said in low tones, as he looked upon the mob,—

"We have come too late."

"Yes, much."

"The house is now nearly gutted."

"It is."

"And those who came crowding along with us are inextricably mingled with the others who have been the cause of all this mischief: there's no distinguishing them one from another."

"And if you did, you could not say who had done it, and who had not; you could prove nothing."


"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.

DOWN WITH THE VAMPYRE: Brave Sir Francis Runs Away

Previously on: Bell and Henry challenge Varney to two consecutive duels, which take most of the chapter to set up and arrange; Varney is selectively immune to bullets; an angry mob approaches.

Chillingworth has come along with the mob in hopes of calming them down, but this does no good:

"Mr. Bannerworth, it has become known, through my indiscretion, that Sir Francis Varney is suspected of being a vampyre."

"Is this so?"

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob. "Down with the vampyre! hurrah! where is he? Down with him!"

"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanest. You've only to take a hedge stake and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."

The mob gave a great shout at this humane piece of advice, and it was some time before Henry could make himself heard at all, even to those who were nearest to him.

Henry tells them to go away and stop helping. This doesn’t work either.

"If anything," pursued Henry, "could add to the annoyance of vexation and misery we have suffered, it would assuredly be the being made subjects of every-day gossip, and every-day clamour."

"You hear him?" said Mr. Marchdale.

"Yes, we does," said a man; "but we comes out to catch a vampyre, for all that."

"Oh, to be sure," said the humane woman; "nobody's feelings is nothing to us. Are we to be woke up in the night with vampyres sucking our bloods while we've got a stake in the country?"

"Hurrah!" shouted everybody. "Down with the vampyre! where is he?"

Yet again we are treated to Rymer/Prest’s attempts to master Dickensian comic classist caricature. The entire mob sequence, including a weird and abortive attempt to exhume someone to see if they are a vampire, is written in this somewhat excruciating style, so I will inflict little of it upon the rest of you.

Henry discovers within his breast a hitherto unthought-of wellspring of sympathy, and so does the admiral; neither of them much like the idea of Varney being torn apart by a bunch of angry yokels, and the admiral proposes to loose a few pistol shots over the mob to disperse them, when Varney appears out of the woods:

Sir Francis Varney had been seen, and was flying before those implacable foes who had sought his life.

He had divested himself of his huge cloak, as well as of his low slouched hat, and, with a speed which nothing but the most absolute desperation could have enabled him to exert, he rushed onward, beating down before him every obstacle, and bounding over the meadows at a rate that, if he could have continued it for any length of time, would have set pursuit at defiance.

So: courtly gentleman, exquisite manners except when engaged in home invasion and assault; accomplished swordsman; Olympic sprinter (in eighteenth-century heeled slippers, to judge by the illustrations). He also has strange-colored eyes. Varney is a Sue.

The Bannerworth party sets off for the town to get some actual authorities involved in the situation, and we rejoin Varney, running like hell across hill and dale to — where else? — the mysterious gothic ruin wherein lies the prisoner we encountered several million words ago. His pursuers arrive shortly thereafter, and are convinced that they’ve caught him now: they have the ruin surrounded and do not expect him to be able to escape, although when they begin to search the structure and find no sign of him, morale suffers somewhat.

Over and over again the ruins were searched—hastily and impatiently by some, carefully and deliberately by others, until there could be no doubt upon the mind of every one individual, that somehow or somewhere within the shadow of those walls, Sir Francis Varney had disappeared most mysteriously.

Then it would have been a strange sight for any indifferent spectator to have seen how they shrunk, one by one, out of the shadow of those ruins; each seeming to be afraid that the vampyre, in some mysterious manner, would catch him if he happened to be the last within their sombre influence; and, when they had all collected in the bright, open space, some little distance beyond, they looked at each other and at the ruins, with dubious expressions of countenance, each, no doubt, wishing that each would suggest something of a consolatory or practicable character.

One of them, a slightly brighter spark than the rest, proposes that the mob should go home (and be heard, loudly, to be departing and no longer interested in capturing Varney), but leave one sentinel behind to observe if the vampyre should actually emerge from the ruins. This is agreed upon, but:

They then all set off at full speed; but the cunning fellow, who certainly had not the slightest idea of so practically carrying out his own suggestion, scampered off after them with a speed that soon brought him in the midst of the throng again, and so, with fear in their looks, and all the evidences of fatigue about them, they reached the town to spread fresh and more exaggerated accounts of the mysterious conduct of Varney the vampyre.

You guys suck at this. Seriously.

Meanwhile Rymer/Prest go back to the Pathetic Prisoner:

We have before slightly mentioned to the reader, and not unadvisedly, the existence of a certain prisoner, confined in a gloomy dungeon, into whose sad and blackened recesses but few and faint glimmering rays of light ever penetrated; for, by a diabolical ingenuity, the narrow loophole which served for a window to that subterraneous abode was so constructed, that, let the sun be at what point it might, during its diurnal course, but a few reflected beams of light could ever find their way into that abode of sorrow.

The prisoner—the same prisoner of whom we before spoke—is there. Despair is in his looks, and his temples are still bound with those cloths, which seemed now for many days to have been sopped in blood, which has become encrusted in their folds.

Eww. The prisoner is super depressed because he’s a prisoner: this theme is enlarged upon and embroidered to a thoroughly unnecessary and yet characteristic extent, until he hears footsteps approaching on the ground above — someone is coming! — who could it be?

He hears some one labouring for breath—panting like a hunted hare; his dungeon door is opened, and there totters in a man, tall and gaunt; he reels like one intoxicated; fatigue has done more than the work of inebriation; he cannot save himself, and he sinks exhausted by the side of that lonely prisoner.

The captive raises himself as far as his chains will allow him; he clutches the throat of his enervated visitor.

"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life together.


And just when things were getting interesting we have to go back to Bannerworth Hall and have a truly interminable conversation between Henry and Flora regarding Varney, their situation, the Hall, the disappearance of Charles Holland, the opinion of Marchdale, the lack of superstition on the part of Chillingworth, and any other goddamn thing they can think of to discuss:

"And now, sister, before we leave the place which has been a home to us from earliest life, let us for a few moments consider if there be any possible excuse for the notion of Mr. Chillingworth, to the effect that Sir Francis Varney wants possession of the house for some purpose still more inimical to our peace and prosperity than any he has yet attempted."

"Has he such an opinion?"

"He has."

"'Tis very strange."

"Yes, Flora; he seems to gather from all the circumstances, nothing but an overwhelming desire on the part of Sir Francis Varney to become the tenant of Bannerworth Hall."

"He certainly wishes to possess it."


"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…

…a brick.

No explanation for this is ever given as far as I can make out. The dude who has taken charge of this operation, one Dick by name, has a suggestion:

Dick's astonishment was so intense that his eyes and mouth kept opening together to such an extent, that it seemed doubtful when they would reach their extreme point of elongation. He then took up the brick and looked at it curiously, and turned it over and over, examined the ends and the sides with a critical eye, and at length he said,—

"Well, I'm blowed, here's a transmogrification; he's consolidified himself into a blessed brick—my eye, here's a curiosity."

"But you don't mean to say that's the butcher, Dick?" said the boy.

Dick reached over, and gave him a tap on the head with the brick.

"There!" he said, "that's what I calls occular demonstration. Do you believe it now, you blessed infidel? What's more natural? He was an out-and-out brick while he was alive; and he's turned to a brick now he's dead."

The mob feels somewhat dissatisfied by this result, and start throwing stones at him.

"Hark ye," he then cried, with a loud voice, "don't interfere with me; you know it won't go down. There's something wrong here; and, as one of yourselves, I'm as much interested in finding out what it is as any of you can possibly be. There seems to be some truth in this vampyre business; our old friend, the butcher, you see, is not in his grave; where is he then?"

The mob looked at each other, and none attempted to answer the question.

"Why, of course, he's a vampyre," said Dick, "and you may all of you expect to see him, in turn, come into your bed-room windows with a burst, and lay hold of you like a million and a half of leeches rolled into one."

There was a general expression of horror, and then Dick continued,—

"You'd better all of you go home; I shall have no hand in pulling up any more of the coffins—this is a dose for me. Of course you can do what you like."

He demonstrates to them that they’re a bunch of cowards; they run off; the kid out of sheer bloody-mindedness gets into the empty coffin, and he and Dick decide to scare the shit out of the townspeople when they come back, which they do, and … what the hell was that all about?


Next time, our heroes very slowly prepare to leave Bannerworth Hall, and a bunch of people burn down Varney’s house.

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."


"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.



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!"



"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!"


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."


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."


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!"


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."


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.


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,—


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."



"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!"


"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.


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



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:


"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,


And to Henry:


"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,


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.


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.


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!


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."


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."


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.


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."


"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."


"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."


"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