Apologies for the delay: real life interveneth from time to time.
Previously on: the admiral and Chillingworth set up an incompetent ambush to catch Varney breaking into Bannerworth Hall; Varney runs away again; Varney for some unknowable reason invites them to breakfast via a note thrown over the garden gate.
We left our secondary heroes arguing over whether to take him up on the invitation. Chillingworth thinks it’s bullshit, but the admiral is determined, and consequently they betake themselves to the house Varney’s staying in due to his own having been torched by angry mobs. He receives them coolly enough:
Sir Francis Varney sat with his back towards this second door, and a table, with some chairs and other articles of furniture, were so arranged before him, that while they seemed but to be carelessly placed in the position they occupied, they really formed a pretty good barrier between him and his visitors.
The admiral, however, was too intent upon getting a sight of Varney, to notice any preparation of this sort, and he advanced quickly into the room.
And there, indeed, was the much dreaded, troublesome, persevering, and singular looking being who had caused such a world of annoyance to the family of the Bannerworths, as well as disturbing the peace of the whole district, which had the misfortune to have him as an inhabitant.
If anything, he looked thinner, taller, and paler than usual, and there seemed to be a slight nervousness of manner about him, as he slowly inclined his head towards the admiral, which was not quite intelligible.
Not even Varney seems to know what the hell he wants out of this interview.
"Well," said Admiral Bell, "you invited me to breakfast, and my learned friend; here we are."
"No two human beings," said Varney, "could be more welcome to my hospitality than yourself and Dr. Chillingworth. I pray you to be seated. What a pleasant thing it is, after the toils and struggles of this life, occasionally to sit down in the sweet companionship of such dear friends."
He made a hideous face as he spoke, and the admiral looked as if he were half inclined to quarrel at that early stage of the proceedings.
Seriously, dude, what is your deal. He summons the help, who arrives with a breakfast tray.
"Deborah," said Sir Varney, in a mild sort of tone, "keep on continually bringing things to eat until this old brutal sea ruffian has satiated his disgusting appetite."
The admiral opened his eyes an enormous width, and, looking at Sir Francis Varney, he placed his two fists upon the table, and drew a long breath.
"Did you address those observations to me," he said, at length, "you blood-sucking vagabond?"
"Eh?" said Sir Francis Varney, looking over the admiral's head, as if he saw something interesting on the wall beyond.
WHAT IS YOUR ACTUAL DEAL
Chillingworth is still the Only Sane Person(TM), and Varney moves on to insulting him instead:
"My dear admiral," said Mr. Chillingworth, "come away."
"I'll see you d——d first!" said the admiral. "Now, Mr. Vampyre, no shuffling; did you address those observations to me?"
"Deborah," said Sir Francis Varney, in silvery tones, "you can remove this tray and bring on the next."
"Not if I know it," said the admiral "I came to breakfast, and I'll have it; after breakfast I'll pull your nose—ay, if you were fifty vampyres, I'd do it."
"Dr. Chillingworth," said Varney, without paying the least attention to what the admiral said, "you don't eat, my dear sir; you must be fatigued with your night's exertions. A man of your age, you know, cannot be supposed to roll and tumble about like a fool in a pantomime with impunity. Only think what a calamity it would be if you were laid up. Your patients would all get well, you know."
Chillingworth is like really, dude?:
"Sir Francis Varney," said Mr. Chillingworth, "we're your guests; we come here at your invitation to partake of a meal. You have wantonly attacked both of us. I need not say that by so doing you cast a far greater slur upon your own taste and judgment than you can upon us."
"Admirably spoken," said Sir Francis Varney, giving his hands a clap together that made the admiral jump again. "Now, old Bell, I'll fight you, if you think yourself aggrieved, while the doctor sees fair play."
It is impossible to tell, because this is this book, whether Varney actually wants to fight him in order to kill him, or if he’s just being a dick because he can (and the admiral is super easy to infuriate):
"Old who?" shouted the admiral.
"Bell, Bell—is not your name Bell?—a family cognomen, I presume, on account of the infernal clack, clack, without any sense in it, that is the characteristic of your race."
"You'll fight me?" said the admiral, jumping up.
"Yes; if you challenge me."
"By Jove I do; of course."
Chillingworth again points out that this is stupid, but Bell will not be dissuaded. Because Varney is the challenged party, he gets to pick the weapon, and of course he picks something hilarious:
"In this mansion," said Sir Francis Varney—"for a mansion it is, although under the unpretending name of a lodge—in this mansion there is a large apartment which was originally fitted up by a scientific proprietor of the place, for the purpose of microscopic and other experiments, which required a darkness total and complete, such a darkness as seems as if it could be felt—palpable, thick, and obscure as the darkness of the tomb, and I know what that is."
"The devil you do!" said the admiral. "It's damp, too, ain't it?"
"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."
"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!"
CHILLINGWORTH HAS SECRETS
But before Mortimer can make his escape YET ANOTHER person shows up, someone we know: Henry Bannerworth. Consternation and to-do, and then this amazing conversation which I will reproduce in full, because it’s too good not to:
"Bannerworth!" said Mortimer; "is that young man's name Bannerworth?"
"Yes," said Henry. "Do you know me, sir?"
"No, no; only I—I—must be off. Does anybody know anything of Sir Francis Varney?"
"We did know something of him," said the admiral, "a little while ago; but he's taken himself off. Don't you do so likewise. If you've got anything to say, stop and say it, like an Englishman."
"Stuff! stuff!" said Mortimer, impatiently. "What do you all want here?"
"Why, Sir Francis Varney," said Henry,—"and I care not if the whole world heard it—is the persecutor of my family."
"How? in what way?"
"He has the reputation of a vampyre; he has hunted me and mine from house and home."
"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.
"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."
RYMER/PREST I HATE YOU SO MUCH
Anyway, they all troop off back to Bannerworth Hall and sit in the storied summerhouse, which as Henry relates happens to be where his dad committed suicide, aww, nostalgia. Henry tells them all about what an asshole his dad was and how he racked up gambling debt upon gambling debt and behaved irresponsibly in every way. At one point he vanished for two months:
"What occurred to him during that time we none of us ever knew, but late one night he came home, apparently much flurried in manner, and seeming as if something had happened to drive him half mad.
"He would not speak to any one, but he shut himself up the whole of the night in the chamber where hangs the portrait that bears so strong a resemblance to Sir Francis Varney, and there he remained till the morning, when he emerged, and said briefly that he intended to leave the country.
"He was in a most fearful state of nervousness, and my mother tells me that he shook like one in an ague, and started at every little sound that occurred in the house, and glared about him so wildly that it was horrible to see him, or to sit in the same apartment with him.
"She says that the whole morning passed on in this way till a letter came to him, the contents of which appeared to throw him into a perfect convulsion of terror, and he retired again to the room with the portrait, where he remained some hours, and then he emerged, looking like a ghost, so dreadfully pale and haggard was he.
"He walked into the garden here, and was seen to sit down in this summer-house, and fix his eyes upon the window of that apartment."
Henry paused for a few moments, and then he added,—
"You will excuse me from entering upon any details of what next ensued in the melancholy history. My father here committed suicide. He was found dying, and all I he words he spoke were, 'The money is hidden!' Death claimed his victim, and, with a convulsive spasm, he resigned his spirit, leaving what he had intended to say hidden in the oblivion of the grave."
"That was an odd affair," said the admiral.
It suuuure was. Henry says they think he killed himself because of mental instability and guilt and general moral turpitude, but the doctor has more information:
"I do not mean," remarked Mr. Chillingworth, "for one moment to attempt to dispute, Henry, the rationality of such an opinion as you have just given utterance to; but you forget that another circumstance occurred, which gave a colour to the words used by your father."
"Yes; I know to what you allude."
"Be so good as to state it to the admiral."
"I will. On the evening of that same day there came a man here, who, in seeming ignorance of what had occurred, although by that time it was well known to all the neighbourhood, asked to see my father.
"Upon being told that he was dead, he started back, either with well acted or with real surprise, and seemed to be immensely chagrined. He then demanded to know if he had left any disposition of his property; but he got no information, and departed muttering the most diabolical oaths and curses that can be imagined. He mounted his horse, for he had ridden to the Hall and his last words were, as I am told—
"'Where, in the name of all that's damnable, can he have put the money!'"
"And did you never find out who this man was?" asked the admiral.
"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.
"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.