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.”)