Previously on: Charles Holland is missing; a local gothic ruin totally coincidentally houses a mysterious prisoner; Varney holds a peculiar meeting with a blackmailing dude who apparently brought him back to life at some point and who scares him shitless.
We rejoin our non-hero as he steals across the sleeping countryside toward Bannerworth Hall. Much is made of the fact that he clearly knows this area very well.
He leant against an aged tree, and his strange, lustrous-looking eyes seemed to collect every wandering scintillation of light that was around, and to shine with preternatural intensity.
"I must, I will," he said, "be master of Bannerworth Hall. It must come to that. I have set an existence upon its possession, and I will have it; and then, if with my own hands I displace it brick by brick and stone by stone, I will discover that hidden secret which no one but myself now dreams of. It shall be done by force or fraud, by love or by despair, I care not which; the end shall sanctify all means. Ay, even if I wade through blood to my desire, I say it shall be done."
He pauses by the summerhouse and is terrified to hear a footstep approaching, since he is unarmed (and a coward), but quickly determines that it’s Flora and that she is sleepwalking, and decides to fuck with her some more. She wakes to find him standing right there and opens the conversation with her time-honored refrain:
"The vampyre—the vampyre!"
"Yes," said Varney, "the vampyre. You know me, Flora Bannerworth—Varney, the vampyre; your midnight guest at that feast of blood. I am the vampyre. Look upon me well; shrink not from my gaze. You will do well not to shun me, but to speak to me in such a shape that I may learn to love you."
She is less than thrilled at this proposition, and Varney continues his theme of Stating the Obvious Multiple Times:
"Hold!" said Varney. "Dress not up in the false colours of the imagination that which in itself is sufficiently terrific to need none of the allurements of romance. Flora Bannerworth, you are persecuted—persecuted by me, the vampyre. It is my fate to persecute you; for there are laws to the invisible as well as the visible creation that force even such a being as I am to play my part in the great drama of existence. I am a vampyre; the sustenance that supports this frame must be drawn from the life-blood of others."
“I have to persecute you. It is inevitable. It is my destiny.”
"But most I do affect the young and beautiful. It is from the veins of such as thou art, Flora Bannerworth, that I would seek the sustenance I'm compelled to obtain for my own exhausted energies. But never yet, in all my long career—a career extending over centuries of time—never yet have I felt the soft sensation of human pity till I looked on thee, exquisite piece of excellence. Even at the moment when the reviving fluid from the gushing fountain of your veins was warming at my heart, I pitied and I loved you. Oh, Flora! even I can now feel the pang of being what I am!"
OH COME ON DUDE
"May you even yet know peace and joy above."
"It is a faint and straggling hope—but if achieved, it will be through the interposition of such a spirit as thine, Flora, which has already exercised so benign an influence upon my tortured soul, as to produce the wish within my heart, to do a least one unselfish action."
"That wish," said Flora, "shall be father to the deed. Heaven has boundless mercy yet."
"For thy sweet sake, I will believe so much, Flora Bannerworth; it is a condition with my hateful race, that if we can find one human heart to love us, we are free. If, in the face of Heaven, you will consent to be mine, you will snatch me from a continuance of my frightful doom, and for your pure sake, and on your merits, shall I yet know heavenly happiness. Will you be mine?"
This is some bullshit but I can’t actually tell if Rymer/Prest mean it to be part of the vamp(y)re mythos or just Varney making stuff up to be a manipulative creep. It goes badly, either way:
A cloud swept from off the face of the moon, and a slant ray fell upon the hideous features of the vampire. He looked as if just rescued from some charnel-house, and endowed for a space with vitality to destroy all beauty and harmony in nature, and drive some benighted soul to madness.
"No, no, no!" shrieked Flora, "never!"
"Enough," said Varney, "I am answered. It was a bad proposal. I am a vampyre still."
This is legitimately funny. What happens next, however, is hilarious:
"Spare me! spare me!"
Flora sank upon her knees, and uplifted her hands to heaven. "Mercy, mercy!" she said.
"Blood!" said Varney, and she saw his hideous, fang-like teeth. "Blood! Flora Bannerworth, the vampyre's motto. I have asked you to love me, and you will not—the penalty be yours."
BLOOD! THE VAMPYRE’S MOTTO!
It’s difficult to tell if he actually means this, or if he’s just fucking with her because he can. Flora presents a perfectly rational and justified objection:
"No, no!" said Flora. "Can it be possible that even you, who have already spoken with judgment and precision, can be so unjust? you must feel that, in all respects, I have been a victim, most gratuitously—a sufferer, while there existed no just cause that I should suffer; one who has been tortured, not from personal fault, selfishness, lapse of integrity, or honourable feelings, but because you have found it necessary, for the prolongation of your terrific existence, to attack me as you have done. By what plea of honour, honesty, or justice, can I be blamed for not embracing an alternative which is beyond all human control?—I cannot love you."
Varney goes into hyper-manipulative mode. He tells her about how terrible and awful and no-good very-bad it is to be a vampyre, and how dreadfully he suffers, woe:
Flora looked intently at him, and listened, while, with a serious earnestness of manner, he detailed to her something of the physiology of the singular class of beings which the concurrence of all circumstances tended to make him appear.
"Flora," he said, "it is not that I am so enamoured of an existence to be prolonged only by such frightful means, which induces me to become a terror to you or to others. Believe me, that if my victims, those whom my insatiable thirst for blood make wretched, suffer much, I, the vampyre, am not without my moments of unutterable agony. But it is a mysterious law of our nature, that as the period approaches when the exhausted energies of life require a new support from the warm, gushing fountain of another's veins, the strong desire to live grows upon us, until, in a paroxysm of wild insanity, which will recognise no obstacles, human or divine, we seek a victim."
"A fearful state!" said Flora.
"It is so; and, when the dreadful repast is over, then again the pulse beats healthfully, and the wasted energies of a strange kind of vitality are restored to us, we become calm again, but with that calmness comes all the horror, all the agony of reflection, and we suffer far more than tongue can tell."
"You have my pity," said Flora; "even you have my pity."
Call the 18th-century equivalent of the waaambulance.
"I might well demand it, if such a feeling held a place within your breast. I might well demand your pity, Flora Bannerworth, for never crawled an abject wretch upon the earth's rotundity, so pitiable as I."
"Go on, go on."
"I will, and with such brief conclusions as I may. Having once attacked any human being, we feel a strange, but terribly impulsive desire again to seek that person for more blood. But I love you, Flora; the small amount of sensibility that still lingers about my preternatural existence, acknowledges in you a pure and better spirit. I would fain save you."
"Oh! tell me how I may escape the terrible infliction."
"That can only be done by flight. Leave this place, I implore you! leave it as quickly as the movement may be made. Linger not—cast not one regretful look behind you on your ancient home. I shall remain in this locality for years. Let me lose sight of you, I will not pursue you; but, by force of circumstances, I am myself compelled to linger here. Flight is the only means by which you may avoid a doom as terrific as that which I endure."
I REALLY WANT YOUR HOUSE OK JUST GO AWAY AND LET ME HAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR REASONS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BECOME CLEAR AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE KTHX
She asks whether she’s going to be a vampyre too, and he reassures her: “The attacks must be often repeated, and the termination of mortal existence must be a consequence essential, and direct from those attacks, before such a result may be anticipated." So that’s all right then. She agrees to leave the Hall as soon as possible. Then something interesting happens:
"Flora, you know that this spot has been the scene of a catastrophe fearful to look back upon, in the annals of your family?"
"It has," said Flora. "I know to what you allude; 'tis a matter of common knowledge to all—a sad theme to me, and one I would not court."
"Nor would I oppress you with it.
But he’s going to anyway.
Your father, here, on this very spot, committed that desperate act which brought him uncalled for to the judgment seat of God. I have a strange, wild curiosity upon such subjects. Will you, in return for the good that I have tried to do you, gratify it?"
"I know not what you mean," said Flora.
"To be more explicit, then, do you remember the day on which your father breathed his last?"
"Too well—too well."
"Did you see him or converse with him shortly before that desperate act was committed?"
"No; he shut himself up for some time in a solitary chamber."
"Ha! what chamber?"
"The one in which I slept myself on the night—"
"Yes, yes; the one with the portrait—that speaking portrait—the eyes of which seem to challenge an intruder as he enters the apartment."
"For hours shut up there!" added Varney, musingly; "and from thence he wandered to the garden, where, in this summer-house, he breathed his last?"
"It was so."
"Then, Flora, ere I bid you adieu—"
These words were scarcely uttered, when there was a quick, hasty footstep, and Henry Bannerworth appeared behind Varney, in the very entrance of the summer-house.
"Now," he cried, "for revenge! Now, foul being, blot upon the earth's surface, horrible imitation of humanity, if mortal arm can do aught against you, you shall die!"
DAMMIT HENRY I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE DEAL WAS
Varney, prudently, knocks a hole through the old rotten wood of the summerhouse’s wall and departs at speed, while Flora shrieks and clings to her brother.
"For Heaven's sake, Flora," he said, "unhand me; this is a time for action."
"But, Henry, Henry, hear me."
"Presently, presently, dear Flora; I will yet make another effort to arrest the headlong flight of Varney."
The men troop off toward the wood to search for him, but joke’s on them:
Flora had promised George that she would return immediately to the house, but when, in compliance with the call of Henry, George and Marchdale had left her alone, she felt so agitated and faint that she began to cling to the trellis work of the little building for a few moments before she could gather strength to reach the mansion.
Two or three minutes might thus have elapsed, and Flora was in such a state of mental bewilderment with all that had occurred, that she could scarce believe it real, when suddenly a slight sound attracted her attention, and through the gap which had been made in the wall of the summer-house, with an appearance of perfect composure, again appeared Sir Francis Varney.
"Flora," he said, quietly resuming the discourse which had been broken off, "I am quite convinced now that you will be much the happier for the interview."
"Gracious Heaven!" said Flora, "whence have you come from?"
"I have never left," said Varney.
"But I saw you fly from this spot."
"You did; but it was only to another immediately outside the summer house. I had no idea of breaking off our conference so abruptly."
This would be a lot less ridiculous if it were made clear that he has the ability to make himself unnoticeable; as it is, the perceptive powers of the entire rest of the cast are thrown into serious doubt. This dude is tall and very distinctive: my disbelief is not suspended.
Flora’s like “what do you want NOW”:
"Have you anything to add to what you have already stated?"
"Absolutely nothing, unless you have a question to propose to me—I should have thought you had, Flora. Is there no other circumstance weighing heavily upon your mind, as well as the dreadful visitation I have subjected you to?"
"Yes," said Flora. "What has become of Charles Holland?"
"Listen. Do not discard all hope; when you are far from here you will meet with him again."
"But he has left me."
"And yet he will be able, when you again encounter him, so far to extenuate his seeming perfidy, that you shall hold him as untouched in honour as when first he whispered to you that he loved you."
"Oh, joy! joy!" said Flora; "by that assurance you have robbed misfortune of its sting, and richly compensated me for all that I have suffered."
"Adieu!" said the vampyre. "I shall now proceed to my own home by a different route to that taken by those who would kill me."
Sounds like a good plan, all things considered.
The next day the assembled cast, minus Varney and Holland, are having a council of war. Flora has told them all about her interview with the vampyre, and proposes to leave the Hall; the others are less crazy about this, and there is yet again an argument between Marchdale and the admiral, which results in a shouting match and the former’s long-awaited departure. FINALLY. Fuck off, dude, go be mysteriously snide somewhere else. In the heat of the moment, the admiral solves their cash-flow problem for them:
"Hark ye, Mr. Henry Bannerworth, you ain't best pleased with me, and in that case I don't know that I shall stay to trouble you any longer, as for your friend who has left you, sooner or later you'll find him out—I tell you there's no good in that fellow. Do you think I've been cruizing about for a matter of sixty years, and don't know an honest man when I see him. But never mind, I'm going on a voyage of discovery for my nephew, and you can do as you like."
"Heaven only knows, Admiral Bell," said Henry, "who is right and who is wrong. I do much regret that you have quarrelled with Mr. Marchdale; but what is done can't be undone."
"Do not leave us," said Flora; "let me beg of you, Admiral Bell, not to leave us; for my sake remain here, for to you I can speak freely and with confidence, of Charles, when probably I can do so to no one else. You knew him well and have a confidence in him, which no one else can aspire to. I pray you, therefore, to stay with us."
"Only on one condition," said the admiral.
"Name it—name it!
"You think of letting the Hall?"
"Let me have it, then, and let me pay a few years in advance. If you don't, I'm d——d if I stay another night in the place. You must give me immediate possession, too, and stay here as my guests until you suit yourselves elsewhere. Those are my terms and conditions. Say yes, and all's right; say no, and I'm off like a round shot from a carronade. D——me, that's the thing, Jack, isn't it?"
"Ay, ay, sir."
There was a silence of some few moments after this extraordinary offer had been made, and then they spoke, saying,—
"Admiral Bell, your generous offer, and the feelings which dictated it, are by far too transparent for us to affect not to understand them. Your actions, Admiral—"
"Oh, bother my actions! what are they to you? Come, now, I consider myself master of the house, d—n you! I invite you all to dinner, or supper, or to whatever meal comes next. Mrs. Bannerworth, will you oblige me, as I'm an old fool in family affairs, by buying what's wanted for me and my guests? There's the money, ma'am. Come along, Jack, we'll take a look over our new house. What do you think of it?"
"Wants some sheathing, sir, here and there."
"Very like; but, however, it will do well enough for us; we're in port, you know. Come along."
Next time: EVERYBODY CHALLENGES VARNEY TO A DUEL.