Previously on: Varney frees Holland from durance vile; Marchdale is an asshole; Rymer/Prest have more hole than plot, concerning continuity.
From the vampyre and Holland, we go back to Flora Bannerworth, who is having Sad Feelings about her vanished fiancé now that she is freed of the constant fear of attack by the — you get the point. Apparently she thinks he has the intelligence of a stunned iguana, because she says (not for the first time) that she hates to have left Bannerworth Hall because what if Charles comes back and finds us not there??? The admiral is like “…he could probably figure it out, actually”:
"Now, sir, that I am away from Bannerworth Hall, I do not, and cannot feel satisfied; for the thought that Charles may eventually come back, and seek us there, still haunts me. Fancy him, sir, doing so, and seeing the place completely deserted."
"Well, there's something in that," said the admiral; "but, however, he's hardly such a goose, if it were so to happen, to give up the chase—he'd find us out somehow."
"You think he would, sir? or, do you not think that despair would seize upon him, and that, fancying we had all left the spot for ever, he might likewise do so; so that we should lose him more effectually than we have done at present?"
"No; hardly," said the admiral; "he couldn't be such a goose as that.”
Thank you, sir. The conversation shifts to the occupation of Bannerworth Hall by the admiral, the doctor, or Jack, and since Jack now arrives, we seem to have a problem:
"Did you not tell me something, sir, of Mr. Chillingworth talking of taking possession of the Hall for a brief space of time?"
"Why, yes, I did; and I expect he is there now; in fact, I'm sure he's there, for he said he would be."
"No, he ain't," said Jack Pringle, at that moment entering the room; "you're wrong again, as you always are, somehow or other."
Which is a great line. Jack’s been to the Hall and Chillingworth is not there, so Jack has come away again rather than doing what he was supposed to do and keep watch. He and the admiral have one of their intensely naval fights complete with gory anecdotes of the other person’s foibles in some battle or other:
"Ay, ay," said Jack; "he quite forgets when the bullets were scuttling our nobs off Cape Ushant, when that big Frenchman had hold of him by the skirf of his neck, and began pummelling his head, and the lee scuppers were running with blood, and a bit of Joe Wiggins's brains had come slap in my eye, while some of Jack Marling's guts was hanging round my neck like a nosegay, all in consequence of grape-shot—then he didn't say as I was a swab, when I came up, and bored a hole in the Frenchman's back with a pike. Ay, it's all very well now, when there's peace, and no danger, to call Jack Pringle a lubberly rascal, and mutinous. I'm blessed if it ain't enough to make an old pair of shoes faint away."
"Why, you infernal scoundrel," said the admiral, "nothing of the sort ever happened, and you know it. Jack, you're no seaman."
And so on. Jack, however, pushes it too far and mentions a woman named Belinda, which apparently touches a nerve, causing the admiral to have sad feelings of his own. Jack betakes himself back to the Hall, and while Rymer/Prest are profoundly not very good at this, they do seem to manage to illustrate the deep affection these two have for one another underneath all the bluster and bullshit. The authorial voice is not only very strong, but very self-confident: you can clearly see them going “look what clever writers we are, that was a devilish witty turn of phrase if I do say so myself,” and it is not a good look, people, not a good look at all.
That’s the end of this chapter: now we have an entire bloody chapter’s worth of the admiral’s reminiscences about this chick he knew when he was young. She was very beautiful and far above his station and yet, and yet somehow he wooed and won her heart, except:
"Oh, a mere trifle; she was already married to somebody else, that's all; some d——d fellow, who had gone trading about the islands, a fellow she didn't care a straw about, that was old enough to be her father."
"And you left her?"
"No, I didn't. Guess again. I was a mad-headed youngster. I only felt—I didn't think. I persuaded her to come away with me. I took her aboard my ship, and set sail with her. A few weeks flew like hours; but one day we were hailed by a vessel, and when we neared her, she manned a boat and brought a letter on board, addressed to Belinda. It was from her father, written in his last moments. It began with a curse and ended with a blessing. There was a postscript in another hand, to say the old man died of grief. She read it by my side on the quarter-deck. It dropped from her grasp, and she plunged into the sea. Jack Pringle went after her; but I never saw her again."
So that’s the end of that digression, and clearly Rymer/Prest have ticked off “Character Development” on a clipboard next to “Admiral Bell.” Let’s go back to more interesting subjects, such as Varney and Marchdale skulking around in the dark. They are in fact skulking in opposite directions, and end up crossing paths and having a super awkward little conversation:
"Ah, Sir Francis Varney," he said, "you are out late."—
"Why, you know I should be out late," said Varney, "and you likewise know the errand upon which I was to be out."
"Oh, I recollect; you were to release your prisoner."—
"Yes, I was."
"And have you done so?"—
"Oh, indeed. I—I am glad you have taken better thoughts of it. Good night—good night; we shall meet to-morrow."—
And off they go. Notice that the punctuation has developed a new annoying quirk; they have remembered how to use the hard return, but they are still using em dashes to separate individual elements of dialogue as well. Eventually they will end up with ASCII emoji for punctuation and then there will be nothing for it but to crawl under the desk and gibber.
Both of them, having walked a little farther on, turn to look at the other and have Thoughts. Varney gets to go first.
"I know his object well. His craven spirit shrinks at the notion, a probable enough one, I will admit, that Charles Holland has recognised him, and that, if once free, he would denounce him to the Bannerworths, holding him up to scorn in his true colours, and bringing down upon his head, perhaps, something more than detestation and contempt. The villain! he is going now to take the life of the man whom he considers chained to the ground. Well, well, they must fight it out together. Charles Holland is sufficiently free to take his own part, although Marchdale little thinks that such is the case."
Marchdale walked on for some little distance, and then he turned and looked after Sir Francis Varney.
"Indeed!" he said; "so you have not released him to-night, but I know well will do so soon. I do not, for my part, admire this romantic generosity which sets a fox free at the moment that he's the most dangerous. It's all very well to be generous, but it is better to be just first, and that I consider means looking after one's self first. I have a poniard here which will soon put an end to the troubles of the prisoner in his dungeon—its edge is keen and sharp, and will readily find a way to his heart."
Having paused to twirl his mustache and go nya-ha-ha, Marchdale continues toward the ruins. A sudden and extremely violent thunderstorm is blowing up, and he’s like “dammit, I have to hurry up and kill the kid so I can get back to town before the rain starts.” He is surprised to find the rock that obscures the entrance to the dungeon out of place, and heads down into the dark — where Charles Holland, true to his promise to Varney, is still waiting, with a dark-adapted eye. He can see Marchdale, but Marchdale can’t see a damn thing, and:
The attack was so sudden and so utterly unexpected, that Marchdale was thrown backwards, and the dagger wrested from his grasp, during the first impulse which Charles Holland had thrown into his attack.
Moreover, his head struck with such violence against the earthern floor, that it produced a temporary confusion of his faculties, so that, had Charles Holland been so inclined, he might, with Marchdale's own weapon, have easily taken his life.
The young man did, on the impulse of the moment, raise it in his hand, but, on the impulse of another thought, he cast it from him, exclaiming—
"No, no! not that; I should be as bad as he, or nearly so. This villain has come to murder me, but yet I will not take his life for the deed. What shall I do with him? Ha! a lucky thought—chains!"
He dragged Marchdale to the identical spot of earth on which he had lain so long; and, as Sir Francis Varney had left the key of the padlock which bound the chains together in it, he, in a few moments, had succeeded in placing the villain Marchdale in the same durance from which he had himself shortly since escaped.
"Remain there," he said, "until some one comes to rescue you. I will not let you starve to death, but I will give you a long fast; and, when I come again, it shall be along with some of the Bannerworth family, to show them what a viper they have fostered in their hearts."
Man that’s satisfying. Well done, Charles, even if you still shouldn’t be in sufficiently good physical shape following weeks of imprisonment to have been capable of any such activity. Fascinatingly, now Rymer/Prest decide to consider this factor. He’s headed to the Hall, going on and on about Flora in his head and enjoying the fresh air:
As he neared the Hall, he quickened his pace to such an extent, that soon he was forced to pause altogether, as the exertion he had undertaken pretty plainly told him that the imprisonment, scanty diet, and want of exercise, which had been his portion for some time past, had most materially decreased his strength.
His limbs trembled, and a profuse perspiration bedewed his brow, although the night was rather cold than otherwise.
"I am very weak," he said; "and much I wonder now that I succeeded in overcoming that villain Marchdale; who, if I had not done so, would most assuredly have murdered me."
YA THINK? I know exactly why they are now paying attention to his physical condition; they needed him to be strong and capable and brave in order to deal with the release, attack, and escape, and now they need him to be a brave but fainting woobie so that Flora will go all hurt-comfort on him. This is lazy writing. You can’t just switch up a character’s condition because you want it to be different in one scene than the next without giving us a damn good reason for the change.
Cut to Marchdale in the dungeon:
Until Charles Holland actually had left the strange, horrible, and cell-like place, he could scarcely make up his mind that the young man entertained a serious intention of leaving him there.
Perhaps he did not think any one could be so cruel and so wicked as he himself; for the reader will no doubt recollect that his, Marchdale's, counsel to Varney, was to leave Charles Holland to his fate, chained down as he was in the dungeon, and that fate would have been the horrible one of being starved to death in the course of a few days.
When now, however, he felt confident that he was deserted—when he heard the sound of Charles Holland's retreating footsteps slowly dying away in the distance, until not the faintest echo of them reached his ears, he despaired indeed; and the horror he experienced during the succeeding ten minutes, might be considered an ample atonement for some of his crimes. His brain was in a complete whirl; nothing of a tangible nature, but that he was there, chained down, and left to starve to death, came across his intellect. Then a kind of madness, for a moment or two, took possession of him; he made a tremendous effort to burst asunder the bands that held him.
All together now: HA-ha. See, Marchdale, actions have consequences, and you richly deserve to be where you are right now. He dissolves into panicky screaming, but there is no one there to hear, as well he knows: he’s put effort into that.
Perhaps he thought there might be a remote chance that some one traversing the meadows would hear him; and yet, if he had duly considered the matter, which he was not in a fitting frame of mind to do, he would have recollected that, in choosing a dungeon among the underground vaults of these ruins, he had, by experiment, made certain that no cry, however loud, from where he lay, could reach the upper air. And thus had this villain, by the very precautions which he had himself taken to ensure the safe custody of another, been his own greatest enemy.
"Help! help! help!" he cried frantically "Varney! Charles Holland! have mercy upon me, and do not leave me here to starve! Help, oh, Heaven! Curses on all your heads—curses! Oh, mercy—mercy—mercy!"
Sorry, dude, mercy’s off. All out of mercy tonight.
That’s three chapters, because among the many things Rymer/Prest are not good at is consistent chapter length. Next time, yet another ENORMOUS UNRELATED STORY WITHIN A STORY, because hey, sometimes you get sick of writing the vampyre the vampyre the vampyre over and over and want to do something different for a change, while still technically getting paid for the original project.