What in the Name of All That's Inexplicable: Varney the Vampyre Gets Away Yet Again

Previously on: Chillingworth tells a tale of LARPing Frankenstein; wonder and consternation from Henry and the admiral; Varney and the hangman are apparently doing construction work in Bannerworth Hall; HALF THE BLOODY PREMISE OF THE NOVEL IS RETCONNED, viz. is Varney a vampyre or not.

We pick up with our heroes in hiding outside the Hall listening to Varney and Ketch the Hangman arguing with one another:

"But what do you here?" said Varney, impatiently.

"What do you?" cried the other.

"Nay, to ask another question, is not to answer mine. I tell you that I have special and most important business in this house; you can have no motive but curiosity."

"Can I not, indeed? What, too, if I have serious and important business here?"



"Well, I may as easily use such a term as regards what you call important business, but here I shall remain."

"Here you shall not remain."

"And will you make the somewhat hazardous attempt to force me to leave?"

Oooh. Ketch is sassy. Varney is tired of him:

"Yes, much as I dislike lifting my hand against you, I must do so; I tell you that I must be alone in this house. I have most special reasons—reasons which concern my continued existence.”

"Your continued existence you talk of.—Tell me, now, how is it that you have acquired so frightful a reputation in this neighbourhood? Go where I will, the theme of conversation is Varney, the vampyre! and it is implicitly believed that you are one of those dreadful characters that feed upon the life-blood of others, only now and then revisiting the tomb to which you ought long since to have gone in peace."


It’s difficult to tell if Varney’s Indeed! is “yeah, I fucking know” or “good heavens, I had no idea.”

"Yes; what, in the name of all that's inexplicable, has induced you to enact such a character?"

"Enact it! you say. Can you, then, from all you have heard of me, and from all you know of me, not conceive it possible that I am not enacting any such character? Why may it not be real? Look at me. Do I look like one of the inhabitants of the earth?"

"In sooth, you do not."

"And yet I am, as you see, upon it. Do not, with an affected philosophy, doubt all that may happen to be in any degree repugnant to your usual experiences."

Varney does snide very well. Also it’s kind of hilarious how often Rymer/Prest work Shakespeare references into the text. This whole bit is lampshading the question raised by Chillingworth’s tale in the previous chapter: is he actually a goddamn vampyre or is he pretending to be one for fun and profit, without giving us any kind of answer, and I am annoyed. Ketch gives few fucks, however:

"I am not one disposed to do so; nor am I prepared to deny that such dreadful beings may exist as vampyres. However, whether or not you belong to so frightful a class of creatures, I do not intend to leave here; but, I will make an agreement with you."

He points out that they’re being watched:

"There are people, even now, watching the place, and no doubt you have been seen coming into it."

"No, no, I was satisfied no one was here but you."

lol, varney

"Then you are wrong. A Doctor Chillingworth, of whom you know something, is here; and him, you have said, you would do no harm to, even to save your life."

"I do know him. You told me that it was to him that I was mainly indebted for my mere existence; and although I do not consider human life to be a great boon, I cannot bring myself to raise my hand against the man who, whatever might have been the motives for the deed, at all events, did snatch me from the grave."

And then freaked out and ran away, leaving Ketch with the reanimated Varney and a lot of questions.

"Upon my word," whispered the admiral, "there is something about that fellow that I like, after all."

"Hush!" said Henry, "listen to them. This would all have been unintelligible to us, if you had not related to us what you have."

"I have just told you in time," said Chillingworth, "it seems."

And here is some lazy writing again: you don’t need to explain why you just had your characters do a thing if it makes sense within the context of the story. If you do need to have a parenthetical “and that’s why I told you the thing” afterward, you haven’t made it make sufficient sense.

"Will you, then," said the hangman, "listen to proposals?"

"Yes," said Varney.

"Come along, then, and I will show you what I have been about; and I rather think you have already a shrewd guess as to my motive. This way—this way."

It is not clear why Ketch changes his mind and takes Varney into his confidence; perhaps he’s just acknowledging that he can’t get rid of the dude and they might as well go searching for treasure together since they both want the same thing. They go deeper into the Hall so that the eavesdroppers can no longer make out what they’re saying; Henry’s like “uh so like what do we do now” and Chillingworth tells him to chill and go fetch his hitherto-forgotten brother and Charles Holland to come join them in the waiting.

(I have just ctrl-F searched for “George” in the Gutenberg document and the last time it appears is waaaaaaaaay back in chapter 37 when the admiral had just decided to buy the Hall, before all the various arrangements for duels were made. We are now in chapter 78 and Rymer/Prest have totally forgotten that Henry had a brother until just now I am in awe of their authorial majesty. Not only have they forgotten he had a brother, they continue to forget what the brother’s name is. For the rest of the novel he is referred to only as the brother. Think about that for a while, won’t you?)

Henry and THE BROTHER return with Holland, sans Jack Pringle, whom they’d dissuaded from coming at the admiral’s behest but who of course shows up on his own shortly thereafter so that he and the admiral can have another tiresome comic-relief argument over whose alcoholism is more of a problem. Chillingworth remains chill, and Rymer/Prest cannot use punctuation:

They more than suspected Dr. Chillingworth, because he was so silent, and hazarded no conjecture at all of knowing something, or of having formed to himself some highly probable hypothesis upon the subject; but they could not get him to agree that such was the case.

There needs to be a comma between “at all” and “of knowing” in order to differentiate between the clauses. As written, it implies that he hazards no conjecture of knowing something, which makes no sense. They suspect him of knowing something because he is so silent and hazards no conjecture at all.

When they challenged him upon the subject, all he would say was,—

"My good friends, you perceive that, there is a great mystery somewhere, and I do hope that to-night it will be cleared up satisfactorily."

With this they were compelled to be satisfied; and now the soft and sombre shades of evening began to creep over the scene, enveloping all objects in the dimness and repose of early night.

Henry hears with his little ear a footstep on the other side of the wall, and goes to reconnoitre.

He had expected to see two or three persons, at the utmost; what was his surprise! to find a compact mass of men crouching down under the garden wall, as far as his eye could reach.

For a few moments, he was so surprised, that he continued to gaze on, heedless of the danger there might be from a discovery that he was playing the part of a spy upon them.

When, however, his first sensations of surprise were over, he cautiously removed to his former position, and, just as he did, so, he heard those who had before spoken, again, in low tones, breaking the stillness of the night.

"I am resolved upon it," said one; "I am quite determined. I will, please God, rid the country of that dreadful man."

"Don't call him a man," said the other.

"Well, well; it is a wrong name to apply to a vampyre."

"It is Varney, after all, then," said Henry. Bannerworth, to himself;—"it is his life that they seek. What can be done to save him?—for saved he shall be if I can compass such an object. I feel that there is yet a something in his character which is entitled to consideration, and he shall not be savagely murdered while I have an arm to raise in his defence. But if anything is now to be done, it must be done by stratagem, for the enemy are, by far, in too great force to be personally combatted with."

Henry could very easily have joined the Chattering Order of St. Beryl: jesus this dude is prolix. “Fuck, they’re here to kill Varney, I have to stop that from happening, but there’s too many of them to fight, we need a plan” would have sufficed. He goes back to tell the others, and they discuss what is to be done; uncharacteristically it is Henry himself who exhibits a rare streak of intelligence and comes up with the answer:

"There is but one chance," said Henry, "and that is to throw them off the scent, and induce them to think that he whom they seek is not here; I think that may possibly be done by boldness."

"But how!"

"I will go among them and make the effort."

He at once left the friends, for he felt that there might be no time to lose, and hastening to the same part of the wall, over which he had looked so short a time before, he clambered over it, and cried, in a loud voice,

"Stop the vampyre! stop the vampyre!"

"Where, where?" shouted a number of persons at once, turning their eyes eagerly towards the spot where Henry stood.

"There, across the fields," cried Henry. "I have lain in wait for him long; but he has eluded me, and is making his way again towards the old ruins, where I am sure he has some hiding-place that he thinks will elude all search. There, I see his dusky form speeding onwards."

"Come on," cried several; "to the ruins! to the ruins! We'll smoke him out if he will not come by fair means: we must have him, dead or alive."

So off they all go to the ruins, where they will encounter the remains of Marchdale, who probably smells a bit ripe by now. I’ve lost count of how long it’s been since he got squished. Rymer/Prest inject extra confusion by talking about the ruins as “Bannerworth Hall” — I seem to recall that the ruins are in fact the last of a previous Bannerworth Hall, but on the other hand I also seem to recall that they were some sort of monastic structure. After several paragraphs of unnecessary description, the mob locates Marchdale, and determines that he is probably a vampyre too, and his body must be burned lest he come back to life and bite everybody’s neck. This is eventually accomplished; but Rymer/Prest are not done with Yet Another Angry Mob Scene: they inject another random stranger whose presence is never explained at all.

There was much talk and joking going on among the men who stood around, in the midst of which, however, they were disturbed by a loud shout, and upon looking in the quarter whence it came, they saw stealing from among the ruins, the form of a man.

He was a strange, odd looking man, and at the time it was very doubtful among the mob as to whom it was—nobody could tell, and more than one looked at the burning pile, and then at the man who seemed to be so mysteriously present, as if they almost imagined that the body had got away.

"Who is it?" exclaimed one.


"Danged if I knows," said another, looking very hard, and very white at the same time;—"I hope it ain't the chap what we've burned here jist now."

"No," said the female, "that you may be sure of, for he's had a stake through his body, and as you said, he can never get over that, for as the stake is consumed, so are his vitals, and that's a sure sign he's done for."

"Yes, yes, she's right—a vampyre may live upon blood, but cannot do without his inside."

This was so obvious to them all, that it was at once conceded, and a general impression pervaded the mob that it might be Sir Francis Varney: a shout ensued.

"Hurrah!—After him—there's a vampyre—there he goes!—after him—catch him—burn him!"

They chase the stranger, who it turns out is just an ordinary human (WHY WAS HE IN THE RUINS COME ON NOW) and proceed to murder him, like you do.

There was a pause, and those nearest, apparently fearful of the consequences, and hardly expecting the catastrophe, began to disperse, and the remainder did so very soon afterwards.

Okay then. Back to the Hall, where our heroes are still lying around waiting for something to happen. Eventually Varney climbs out of a window (does the door just not work, or what):

"There comes your patient, doctor," said the admiral.

"Don't call him my patient," said the doctor, "if you please."

"Why you know he is; and you are, in a manner of speaking, bound to look after him. Well, what is to be done?"

"He must not, on any account," said Dr. Chillingworth, "be allowed to leave the place. Believe me, I have the very strongest reasons for saying so."

They accost him. Varney’s like “…what?”

"Well, gentlemen," he said, with that strange contortion of countenance which, now they all understood, arose from the fact of his having been hanged, and restored to life again. "Well, gentlemen, now that you have beleaguered me in such a way, may I ask you what it is about?"

"If you will step aside with me, Sir Francis Varney, for a moment," said Dr. Chillingworth, "I will make to you a communication which will enable you to know what it is all about."

"Oh, with pleasure," said the vampyre. "I am not ill at present; but still, sir, I have no objection to hear what you have to say."

He stepped a few paces on one side with the doctor, while the others waited, not without some amount of impatience for the result of the communication. All that they could hear was, that Varney said, suddenly—

"You are quite mistaken."

And then the doctor appeared to be insisting upon something, which the vampyre listened to patiently; and, at the end, burst out with,—

"Why, doctor, you must be dreaming."

At this, Dr. Chillingworth at once left him, and advancing to his friends, he said,—

"Sir Francis Varney denies in toto all that I have related to you concerning him; therefore, I can say no more than that I earnestly recommend you, before you let him go, to see that he takes nothing of value with him."

"Why, what can you mean?" said Varney.

"Search him," said the doctor; "I will tell you why, very shortly."

Varney protests, and when they press him, he shoots Chillingworth point-blank with a pistol and legs it. Henry, his brother, and the admiral are so shocked that they don’t chase him.

"It was a cold blooded, cowardly murder," said his brother.

"It was; but you may depend the doctor was about to reveal something to us, which Varney so much dreaded, that he took his life as the only effectual way, at the moment, of stopping him."

"It must be so," said Henry.

"And now," said the admiral, "it's too late, and we shall not know it at all. That's the way. A fellow saves up what he has got to tell till it is too late to tell it, and down he goes to Davy Jones's locker with all his secrets aboard."

"Not always," said Dr. Chillingworth, suddenly sitting bolt upright—"not always."

I love Chillingworth so much, you guys.

Henry and his brother started back in amazement, and the admiral was so taken by surprise, that had not the resuscitated doctor suddenly stretched out his hand and laid hold of him by the ankle, he would have made a precipitate retreat.

"Hilloa! murder!" he cried. "Let me go! How do I know but you may be a vampyre by now, as you were shot by one."

Henry soonest recovered from the surprise of the moment, and with the most unfeigned satisfaction, he cried,—

"Thank God you are unhurt, Dr. Chillingworth! Why he must have missed you by a miracle."

"Not at all," said the doctor. "Help me up—thank you—all right. I'm only a little singed about the whiskers. He hit me safe enough."

"Then how have you escaped?"

"Why from the want of a bullet in the pistol, to be sure. I can understand it all well enough. He wanted to create sufficient confusion to cover a desperate attempt to escape, and he thought that would be best done by seeming so shoot me. The suddenness of the shock, and the full belief, at the moment, that he had sent a bullet into my brains, made me fall, and produced a temporary confusion of ideas, amounting to insensibility."

So that’s all right then. Chillingworth says all is basically lost at this point, but refuses to explain why:

"Alas! alas!" cried the doctor, "I much fear that, by his going, I have lost all that I expected to be able to do for you, Henry. It's of not the least use now telling you or troubling you about it. You may now sell or let Bannerworth Hall to whomever you please, for I am afraid it is really worthless."

"What on earth do you mean?" said Henry. "Why, doctor, will you keep up this mystery among us? If you have anything to say, why not say it at once?"

"Because, I tell you it's of no use now. The game is up, Sir Francis Varney has escaped; but still I don't know that I need exactly hesitate."

"There can be no reason for your hesitating about making a communication to us," said Henry. "It is unfriendly not to do so."

"My dear boy, you will excuse me for saying that you don't know what you are talking about."

"Can you give any reason?"

"Yes; respect for the living. I should have to relate something of the dead which would be hurtful to their feelings."

Henry was silent for a few moments, and then he said,—

"What dead? And who are the living?"

"Another time," whispered the doctor to him; "another time, Henry. Do not press me now. But you shall know all another time."

While all this has been going on, the hangman has escaped from the Hall, to add to their woes.

"And so, after all," said Henry, "we are completely foiled?"

"We may be," said Dr. Chillingworth; "but it is, perhaps, going too far to say that we actually are. One thing, however, is quite clear; and that is, no good can be done here."

"Then let us go home," said the admiral. "I did not think from the first that any good would be done here."

They depart for the Cottage of Undisclosed Location, minus Charles, who has disappeared, and Jack, who simply stopped being mentioned because Rymer/Prest in their infinite wisdom forgot he was there.

Next time: Charles and Varney have a very interesting chat.

All the Varney recaps