"We Have Committed a Great Mistake," or, Varney the Vampyre and the Inept Ambush

One of the chapters in today’s recap is titled THE ARRIVAL OF JACK PRINGLE.—MIDNIGHT AND THE VAMPYRE.—THE MYSTERIOUS HAT. What about the hat is mysterious? you ask.


come on, dudes, are you just randomly making shit up that has nothing to do with the chapters, arrrgh

Previously on: the angry mob burns down Varney’s house; Varney disappears into thin air; much discussion is had of leaving Bannerworth Hall.

We resume with even more discussion of leaving Bannerworth Hall oh my god these people take FOREVER to do anything. At extreme length, with much incomprehensible naval byplay, Jack gets them into a coach and drives them to an undisclosed location:

"Up the garden if you please, ma'am—as quick as you can; the night air is very cold."

Flora and her mother and brother took the hint, which was meant by Jack to mean that they were not to be seen outside. They at once entered a pretty garden, and then they came to a very neat and picturesque cottage. They had no time to look up at it, as the door was immediately opened by an elderly female, who was intended to wait upon them.

"Well," said Flora, "this is very thoughtful of the admiral. The place will really be charming, and the garden, too, delightful."

So that’s all right, then. Meanwhile, back at Bannerworth Hall:

It is now quite night, and so peculiar and solemn a stillness reigns in and about Bannerworth Hall and its surrounding grounds, that one might have supposed it a place of the dead, deserted completely after sunset by all who would still hold kindred with the living. There was not a breath of air stirring, and this circumstance added greatly to the impression of profound repose which the whole scene exhibited.

Admiral Bell and Chillingworth are sitting in the room traditionally reserved for vampyre target-shooting through the window, waiting in the dark and drinking. Chillingworth isn’t having a great time, but the admiral is totally enjoying this:

"I do hope," said Mr. Chillingworth, after a long pause, "that our efforts will be crowned with success—you know, my dear sir, that I have always been of your opinion, that there was a great deal more in this matter than met the eye."

"To be sure," said the admiral, "and as to our efforts being crowned with success, why, I'll give you a toast, doctor, 'may the morning's reflection provide for the evening's amusement.'"

"Ha! ha!" said Chillingworth, faintly; "I'd rather not drink any more, and you seem, admiral, to have transposed the toast in some way. I believe it runs, 'may the evening's amusement bear the morning's reflection.'"

"Transpose the devil!" said the admiral; "what do I care how it runs? I gave you my toast, and as to that you mention, it's another one altogether, and a sneaking, shore-going one too: but why don't you drink?"

"Why, my dear sir, medically speaking, I am strongly of opinion that, when the human stomach is made to contain a large quantity of alcohol, it produces bad effects upon the system. Now, I've certainly taken one glass of this infernally strong Hollands, and it is now lying in my stomach like the red-hot heater of a tea-urn."

"Is it? put it out with another, then."

Chillingworth questions the necessity of their sitting up all night here, the first night the Hall is empty, and yet again there is heated agreement over the fact that Varney clearly wants the Hall and is therefore likely to take advantage of its apparent emptiness, and so on and so forth. The admiral has rigged up a very basic alarm system to warn them if anybody tries to get in, to wit: locking all the windows but one, and putting a bunch of crockery just inside that one so that an intruder would necessarily cause a hell of a lot of smashy-smashy noise; this occurs; it turns out that the intruder is a cat, not a Varney.

Jack Pringle arrives, having stopped off on the way to get stinking drunk against the admiral’s orders, and they have a fight about it; Jack passes out:

"So far, so good," said the admiral. "He's out of the way, at all events."

"I'll just loosen his neckcloth," said Mr. Chillingworth, "and then we'll go and sit somewhere else; and I should recommend that, if anywhere, we take up our station in that chamber, once Flora's, where the mysterious panelled portrait hangs, that bears so strong a resemblance to Varney, the vampyre."

"Hush!" said the admiral. "What's that?"

They listened for a moment intently; and then, distinctly, upon the gravel path outside the window, they heard a footstep, as if some person were walking along, not altogether heedlessly, but yet without any very great amount of caution or attention to the noise he might make.

"Hist!" said the doctor. "Not a word. They come."

"What do you say they for?" said the admiral.

"Because something seems to whisper me that Mr. Marchdale knows more of Varney, the vampyre, than ever he has chosen to reveal. Put out the light."

I told you Chillingworth was the smartest of the bunch, not that that’s saying a great deal. (Apparently it is now de rigueur to add “, the vampyre” every time Varney’s name is spoken aloud.) They know where the intruders are heading:

"My life on it," said Mr. Chillingworth as they left the apartment, "if this be Varney, he makes for that apartment where Flora slept, and which he knows how to get admission to. I've studied the house well, admiral, and to get to that window any one from here outside must take a considerable round. Come on—we shall be beforehand."

"A good idea—a good idea. Be it so."

Just allowing themselves sufficient light to guide them on the way from the lantern, they hurried on with as much precipitation as the intricacies of the passage would allow, nor halted till they had reached the chamber were hung the portrait which bore so striking and remarkable a likeness to Varney, the vampyre.

Yup, every time. At this point Rymer/Prest get one of their few but present moments of actually unnerving description:

"Do you think," said the admiral, "we've distanced them?"

"Certainly we have. It's unlucky that the blind of the window is down."

"Is it? By Heaven, there's a d——d strange-looking shadow creeping over it."

Mr. Chillingworth looked almost with suspended breath. Even he could not altogether get rid of a tremulous feeling, as he saw that the shadow of a human form, apparently of very large dimensions, was on the outside, with the arms spread out, as if feeling for some means of opening the window.

They watch while it goes about its task:

There was a strange cracking sound at the window, as if a pane of glass was being very stealthily and quietly broken; and then the blind was agitated slightly, confusing much the shadow that was cast upon it, as if the hand of some person was introduced for the purpose of effecting a complete entrance into the apartment.

"He's coming in," whispered the admiral.

"Hush, for Heaven's sake!" said Mr. Chillingworth; "you will alarm him, and we shall lose the fruit of all the labour we have already bestowed upon the matter; but did you not say something, admiral, about lying under the window and catching him by the leg?"

Aaaaaand there we go, back to risibility. They just cannot keep the tone straight, and I don’t think it’s on purpose.

"Why, yes; I did."

"Go and do it, then; for, as sure as you are a living man, his leg will be in in a minute."

"Here goes," said the admiral; "I never suggest anything which I'm unwilling to do myself."

Whoever it was that now was making such strenuous exertions to get into the apartment seemed to find some difficulty as regarded the fastenings of the window, and as this difficulty increased, the patience of the party, as well as his caution deserted him, and the casement was rattled with violence.

Varney can’t even climb into a goddamn window with any grace. He’s a vampyre, he’s supposed to be inhumanly quick and strong and stylish as hell, and he’s rattling the window because dammit he can’t get insiiiide. Eventually it opens:

Mr. Chillingworth saw, by the moonlight, a tall, gaunt figure standing in the balcony, as if just hesitating for a moment whether to get head first or feet first into the apartment.

Had he chosen the former alternative he would need, indeed, to have been endowed with more than mortal powers of defence and offence to escape capture, but his lucky star was in the ascendancy, and he put his foot in first.

He turned his side to the apartment and, as he did so, the bright moonlight fell upon his face, enabling Mr. Chillingworth to see, without the shadow of a doubt, that it was, indeed, Varney, the vampyre, who was thus stealthily making his entrance into Bannerworth Hall, according to the calculation which had been made by the admiral upon that subject. The doctor scarcely knew whether to be pleased or not at this discovery; it was almost a terrifying one, sceptical as he was upon the subject of vampyres, and he waited breathless for the issue of the singular and perilous adventure.

He stick his legy out real far, and the admiral grabs his boot; unfortunately Varney is not completely stupid, and makes good his escape, one boot short. There follows a truly incomprehensible Three Stooges scene in which gunfire is exchanged out the window, various objects are thrown into the window, including part of a tree, there is much yelling, and it turns out that the person shooting at them from the garden was in fact a confused Jack Pringle. All of this is very confusing and unnecessary, but it comes to an end just in time for this to occur:

At this instant there was a strange hissing sound heard below the window; then there was a sudden, loud report, as if a hand-grenade had gone off. A spectral sort of light gleamed into the room, and a tall, gaunt-looking figure rose slowly up in the balcony.

"Beware of the dead!" said a voice. "Let the living contend with the living, the dead with the dead. Beware!"

The figure disappeared, as did also the strange, spectral-looking light. A death-like silence ensued, and the cold moonbeams streamed in upon the floor of the apartment, as if nothing had occurred to disturb the wrapped repose and serenity of the scene.

Ooookay then.

They apparently don’t waste time discussing this apparition, instead choosing to conduct a post-mortem on the night’s attempted activities. Chillingworth, again, is the brain trust of the group.

"Why, we ought to have watched outside the house, instead of within it. There can be no doubt that if we had lain in wait in the garden, we should have been in a better position to have accomplished our object."

"Well, I don't know, doctor, but it seems to me that if Jack Pringle hadn't made such a fool of himself, we should have managed very well: and I don't know now how he came to behave in the manner he did."

"Nor I," said Mr. Chillingworth. "But, at all events, so far as the result goes, it is quite clear that any further watching, in this house, for the appearance of Sir Francis Varney, will now be in vain. He has nothing to do now but to keep quiet until we are tired out—a fact, concerning which he can easily obtain information—and then he immediately, without trouble, walks into the premises, to his own satisfaction."

"But what the deuce can he want upon the premises?"

"That question, admiral, induces me to think that we have made another mistake. We ought not to have attempted to surprise Sir Francis Varney in coming into Bannerworth Hall, but to catch him as he came out."

That would have been a much better idea. They decide they’d better tell Henry about what’s happened and ask him what he thinks they ought to do, and are discussing breakfast and bickering amongst themselves when someone rings the bell at the gate, throws a note over into the garden, and runs away.

The admiral, after looking at it for some time with very great wonder, came at last to the conclusion that probably to open it would be the shortest way of arriving at a knowledge of who had sent it, and he accordingly did so.

The leap of intellect, it is staggering.

The note was as follows:—

"My dear sir,—Feeling assured that you cannot be surrounded with those means and appliances for comfort in the Hall, in its now deserted condition, which you have a right to expect, and so eminently deserve, I flatter myself that I shall receive an answer in the affirmative, when I request the favour of your company to breakfast, as well as that of your learned friend. Mr. Chillingworth.

"In consequence of a little accident which occurred last evening to my own residence, I am, ad interim, until the county build it up for me again, staying at a house called Walmesley Lodge, where I shall expect you with all the impatience of one soliciting an honour, and hoping that it will be conferred upon him.

"I trust that any little difference of opinion on other subjects will not interfere to prevent the harmony of our morning's meal together.

"Believe me to be, my dear sir, with the greatest possible consideration, your very obedient, humble servant,


The admiral gasped again, and looked at Mr. Chillingworth, and then at the note, and then at Mr. Chillingworth again, as if he was perfectly bewildered.

"That's about the coolest piece of business," said Mr. Chillingworth, "that ever I heard of."

"Hang me," said the admiral, "if I sha'n't like the fellow at last. It is cool, and I like it because it is cool. Where's my hat? where's my stick!"

Chillingworth is like “you’re kidding, right?” but the admiral is determined to breakfast with a vampyre, and the chapter comes to a close.

Next time: Varney the Vampyre Is A Real Dick, News At 11.