Previously on: the mysterious Hungarian vampire gets shot for a change, but respawns as usual and swims off down a stream, to the discomfiture of the locals; Varney, yet again pursued by an angry mob, parkours his way to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location and collapses at the feet of Flora Bannerworth in time to tell our heroes lots more of his origin story.
Charles has filled everyone in on the part of it which Varney already shared with him, and now Varney takes up the narrative thread to explain that, having murdered Some Guy, he and Marmaduke Bannerworth then had to hide the body and this was a gigantic hassle:
"It is ever the worst part of the murderer's task, that after he has struck the blow that has deprived his victim of existence, it becomes his frightful duty to secrete the corpse, which, with its dead eyes, ever seems to be glaring upon him such a world of reproach.
That it is which should make people pause ere they dipped their hands in the blood of others, and that it is which becomes the first retribution that the murderer has to endure for the deep crime that he has committed.”
Not, y’know, the murdering people is generally a bad idea and frowned upon in polite society thing, but the fact that you gotta hide the fucking body afterwards. They’re kind of bad at this:
"When we had completed this, and likewise gathered handsfull of dust from the road, and dry leaves, and such other matter, to sprinkle upon the grave, so as to give the earth an appearance of not having been disturbed, we looked at each other and breathed from our toil.
"Then, and not till then, was it that we remembered that among other things which the gambler had won of Marmaduke were the deeds belonging to the Dearbrook property."
D’OH. Marma-B is like goddamnit I can’t believe I have to dig this asshole up again and Varney tells him in no uncertain terms that he, Varney, is all kinds of not up for any such thing. Proving that he is very far from the smartest apple on the Bannerworth family tree, Marmaduke decides to leave the deeds on the dead guy and see if anybody notices:
"'Well, well,' he said, 'I will not, at the present time, disturb the remains; I will wait to see if anything should arise from the fact of the murder; if it should turn out that no suspicion of any kind is excited, but that all is still and quiet, I can then take measures to exhume the corpse, and recover those papers, which certainly are important.'
Brilliant. It’s getting on for morning, so they decide to bugger off. Varney tells Marma-B to take the whole of their recovered winnings back to Bannerworth Hall and hide them somewhere clever, and he will come by in the near future to collect his half. Of course, we know this doesn’t end up happening because Bannerworth shoots himself in a drunken access of guilt without telling Varney where he hid the loot. This is the reason Varney’s been scheming up ways to get hold of Bannerworth Hall all book, in case you were wondering, but in the meantime he has to decamp for London and take up a new career as a desperate criminal. This goes about as well as you could imagine, and the gang he’s running with end up getting caught and sentenced to death. Varney doesn’t take this well:
"In this state of affairs, and seeing nothing but death before me, I gave myself up to despair, and narrowly missed cheating the hangman of his victim.
"More dead than alive, I was, however, dragged out to be judicially murdered, and I shall never forget the crowd of frightful sensations that came across my mind upon that terrific occasion.”
He recalls that the mob who came out to watch his execution apparently yelled invective not at him but at the hangman, who seems to occupy a ceremonially reviled role similar to the member of the ancient Egyptian embalming team who made the first incision on the corpse and was thence chased away and pelted with stones. This dude is, of course, the other person who has been trying to get inside Bannerworth Hall and who is now, I think, ded from angry mob. Varney is, without further ado, dispatched to the great beyond OR IS HE:
"Then suddenly there was a loud shout—I felt the platform give way beneath my feet—I tried to utter a yell of agony, but could not—it seemed to me as if I was encompassed by fire, and then sensation left me, and I knew no more.
"The next feelings of existence that came over me consisted in a frightful tingling sensation throughout my veins, and I felt myself making vain efforts to scream. All the sensations of a person suffering from a severe attack of nightmare came across me, and I was in such an agony, that I inwardly prayed for death to release me from such a cruel state of suffering. Then suddenly the power to utter a sound came to me, and I made use of it well, for the piercing shriek I uttered, must have struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it, since it appalled even myself.
"Then I suppose I must have fainted, but when I recovered consciousness again, I found myself upon a couch, and a man presenting some stimulus to me in a cup. I could not distinguish objects distinctly, but I heard him say, 'Drink, and you will be better.'
Since Chillingworth pulled a Victor Frankenstein and ran the fuck away after successfully resurrecting the dead, rather than bothering to provide aftercare, it’s up to the hangman. Varney has a bit of difficulty understanding what the fuck just happened.
"It was some time before I could speak, and when I did, it was only in a few muttered words, to ask what had happened, and where I was.
"'Do you not remember,' he said, 'that you were hanged?'
"'I do—I do,' was my reply. 'Is this the region of damned souls?'
"'No; you are still in this world, however strange you may think it. Listen to me, and I will briefly tell you how it is that you have come back again, as it were, from the very grave, to live and walk about among the living."
So he does, and then drops this bombshell on Varney:
"'There can be no doubt but my duty requires of me to give you up again to the offended laws of your country. I will not, however, do that, if you will consent to an arrangement that I shall propose to you.'
"I asked him what the arrangement was, and he said that if I would solemnly bind myself to pay to him a certain sum per annum, he would keep my secret, and forsaking his calling as hangman, endeavour to do something that should bring with it pleasanter results. I did so solemnly promise him, and I have kept my word. By one means or another I have succeeded in procuring the required amount, and now he is no more."
Thus the scene a few hundred thousand chapters back where Varney is awaiting the dire and terrible visit of a mysterious personage who keeps extorting money out of him. However, since the angry mob has done for Mr. Ketch, Varney is freed from his obligation:
"I believe," cried Henry, "that he has fallen a victim to the blind fury of the populace."
"You are right, he has so, and accordingly I am relieved from the burden of those payments; but it matters little, for now I am so near the tomb myself, that, together with all my obligations, I shall soon be beyond the reach of mortal cavilling."
Woe, doom. You can just see him pressing a hand to his forehead and siiiiighing. The others are like “get over it” and want the rest of the story:
"You need not think so, Varney; you must remember that you are at present suffering from circumstances, the pressure of which will soon pass away, and then you will resume your wonted habits."
"What did you do next?" said the admiral.—"Let's know all while you are about it."
Varney relates that the hangman, whose name was apparently “Mortimore,” let him crash on his couch until he was all better from being dead. He spent that time coming up with clever and nefarious plans to get hold of cash, never having forgotten that somewhere in Bannerworth Hall there was a huge wad thereof, part of which technically belonged to him. It is at this point that he first discovered himself to be a supernatural creature incapable of staying dead, entirely by accident, falling off his horse into a stream:
"I could not swim, and so, for a second time, death, with all its terrors, appeared to be taking possession of me. The waters rolled over my head, gurgling and hissing in my ears, and then all was past. I know no more, until I found myself lying upon a bright green meadow, and the full beams of the moon shining upon me.
"I was giddy and sick, but I rose, and walked slowly away, each moment gathering fresh strength, and from that time to this, I never discovered how I came to be rescued from the water, and lying upon that green bank. It has ever been a mystery to me, and I expect it ever will.
"Then from that moment the idea that I had a sort of charmed life came across me, and I walked about with an impression that such was the case, until I came across a man who said that he was a Hungarian, and who was full of strange stories of vampyres. Among other things, he told me that a vampyre could not be drowned, for that the waters would cast him upon its banks, and, if the moonbeams fell upon him, he would be restored to life.
"This was precisely my story, and from that moment I believed myself to be one of those horrible, but charmed beings, doomed to such a protracted existence. The notion grew upon me day by day, and hour by hour, until it became quite a fixed and strong belief, and I was deceiving no one when I played the horrible part that has been attributed to me."
ARE YOU OR AREN’T YOU A GODDAMN VAMPYRE, DUDE — no, you know what, I’m not going to yell at Varney for something that is entirely Rymer/Prest’s stupid fault, it is lazy writing to leave the answer to this question completely up in the air, smdh.
"But you don't mean to say that you believe you are a vampyre now?" said the admiral.
"I say nothing, and know not what to think. I am a desperate man, and what there is at all human in me, strange to say, all of you whom I sought to injure, have awakened."
Henry’s all “who gives a shit, make with the rest of the story”:
"Heed not that," said Henry, "but continue your narrative. We have forgiven everything, and that ought to suffice to quiet your mind upon such a subject."
At this point Varney proceeds to fucking retcon his own first appearance in print. He explains that he had determined to get hold of Bannerworth Hall through whatever means necessary, and after sending them chummy notes asking to buy their home failed to work, he decided to terrify them out of the place instead:
"By prowling about, I made myself familiar with the grounds, and with all the plan of the residence, and then one night made my appearance in Flora's chamber by the window."
"But how do you account," said Charles Holland, "for your extraordinary likeness to the portrait?"
"It is partly natural, for I belong to a collateral branch of the family;
OH COME ON NOW
and it was previously arranged. I had seen the portrait in Marmaduke Bannerworth's time, and I knew some of its peculiarities and dress sufficiently well to imitate them. I calculated upon producing a much greater effect by such an imitation; and it appears that I was not wrong, for I did produce it to the full."
"You did, indeed," said Henry; "and if you did not bring conviction to our minds that you were what you represented yourself to be, you at least staggered our judgments upon the occasion, and left us in a position of great doubt and difficulty."
"I did; I did all that, I know I did; and, by pursuing that line of conduct, I, at last, I presume, entirely forced you from the house."
"That you did."
"Flora fainted when I entered her chamber; and the moment I looked upon her sweet countenance my heart smote me for what I was about; but I solemnly aver, that my lips never touched her, and that, beyond the fright, she suffered nothing from Varney, the vampyre."
OH COME THE LIVID FUCK ON NOW I CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE THIS SHIT
LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING SHALL WE
With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen—with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed—Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the bed—she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction—horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!
AND A LITTLE FURTHER ON
Before it passed out they each and all caught a glance of the side-face, and they saw that the lower part of it and the lips were dabbled in blood. They saw, too, one of those fearful-looking, shining, metallic eyes which presented so terrible an appearance of unearthly ferocity.
This is not just lazy writing, this is insufferably irresponsible writing. Do not do this, people. Gaslighting your own readers is just not such a great look. Just about as insufferable is the complete lack of surprise or disagreement on the part of the other characters in hearing this asshole flatly contradict the evidence of their own eyes; they’re just like “oh, okay then.”
"I presume, Sir Francis Varney," said Charles Holland, "that you have now completed your narrative?"
"I have. After events are well known to you. And, now, I have but to lie down and die, with the hope of finding that rest and consolation in the tomb which has been denied me hitherto in this world. My life has been a stormy one, and full of the results of angry passions. I do hope now, that, for the short time I have to live, I shall know something like serenity, and die in peace."
this dude is Edgar Allan Poe character levels of dramatic bullshit I swear
He proceeds to develop Mysterious Wasting Disease, which is related to Movie Tuberculosis without the delicate episodes of hemoptysis, and lies around on couches being pathetic at everybody:
Time flew by. The mode of passing time at the cottage was calm and serene. Varney had seldom witnessed anything like it; but, at the same time, he felt more at ease than ever he had; he was charmed with the society of Flora—in fact, with the whole of the little knot of individuals who there collected together; from what he saw he was gratified in their society; and it seemed to alleviate his mental disquiet, and the sense he must feel of his own peculiar position. But Varney became ill. The state of mind and body he had been in for some time past might be the cause of it. He had been much harassed, and hunted from place to place. There was not a moment in which his life was not in danger, and he had, moreover, more than one case, received some bodily injuries, bruises, and contusions of a desperate character; and yet he would take no notice of them, but allow them to get well again, as best they could. His escapes and injuries had made a deep impression upon his mind, and had no doubt a corresponding effect upon his body, and Varney became very ill.
Which is where I will leave him for the moment. Next time: yet more people show up to play Chase the Vampyre because we haven’t had enough of that in this book so far.