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