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.