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.