"There are things living in the stream, and I am one of them": Varney the Vampyre Goes Nowhere Fast

Previously on: Charles Holland follows Varney to his latest lair, gets him to wake up with effort, and proceeds to coax his life story out of him while continuing to emphasize confusion regarding the actual nature of Varney himself — and also calls Varney on his shit, for the first time all book, and I am gleeful.

Presumably because Rymer/Prest wanted to pad the narrative, Varney tells Charles only part of his backstory before telling him to run along and come back the following evening for the thrilling conclusion. What we know so far is that he and Flora’s dad were involved in a highway robbery that went south; he was tried and hanged for it; Chillingworth revived him with mysterious galvanic something-or-other; and he has a scorching case of vampire angst whether or not he is in fact a legit sanguivore.

We now cut back to the local inn, where yet another mysterious stranger has arrived and is asking after Varney. The newcomer is tall, dark, cadaverous, doesn’t eat food, etcetera:

"I live upon drink," said the stranger; "but you have none in the cellar that will suit me."

"Indeed, sir."

"No, no, I am certain."

"Why, we've got some claret now, sir," said the landlord.

"Which may look like blood, and yet not be it."

come on now does everyone in this whole book have to be such a goddamn edgelord

The stranger wishes to have it put about that a nobleman from Hungary is looking for Varney and wants to have a chat regarding same with Mr. Henry Bannerworth. There is some unnecessary byplay establishing that the innkeeper is still comic relief, Chillingworth’s wife is annoying, and local enterprising urchins are enterprising; the Hungarian settles with one such to act as a guide for him and lead him to the house Varney is currently renting.

Back at the Cottage of Undisclosed Location the admiral and Jack do a bit more fighting and making up; Charles arrives, fresh from his all-night storytelling session with Varney, and true to his word does not vouchsafe any of the secrets he now conceals in his bosom. Not a hell of a lot actually happens, so we cut back to the Hungarian who is arousing suspicion amongst the locals due to acting really fucking suspicious. It is determined that he is probably a vampyre:

"Have you an almanack in the house?" was the question of the mysterious guest.

"An almanack, sir? well, I really don't know. Let me see, an almanack."

"But, perhaps, you can tell me. I was to know the moon's age."

"The devil!" thought the landlord; "he's a vampyre, and no mistake. Why, sir, as to the moon's age, it was a full moon last night, very bright and beautiful, only you could not see it for the clouds."

"A full moon last night," said the mysterious guest, thoughtfully; "it may shine, then, brightly, to-night, and if so, all will be well. I thank you,—leave the room."

"Do you mean to say, sir, you don't want anything to eat now?"

"What I want I'll order."

"But you have ordered nothing."

"Then presume that I want nothing."

The discomfited landlord was obliged to leave the room, for there was no such a thing as making any answer to this, and so, still further confirmed in his opinion that the stranger was a vampyre that came to see Sir Francis Varney from a sympathetic feeling towards him, he again reached the bar-parlour.

"You may depend," he said, "as sure as eggs is eggs, that he is a vampyre. Hilloa! he's going off,—after him—after him; he thinks we suspect him. There he goes—down the High-street."

The locals follow him; he apparently notices this and instead of continuing toward the agreed-upon rendezvous with the urchin he heads off across the countryside, but not fast enough to get out of range; one of the more enterprising locals takes a shot at him while he crosses a stream, and apparently finds his mark. Rymer/Prest now employ a rare but not unheard-of scene break and now proceed to go absolutely florid in descriptive prose. You can clearly tell they’re enjoying the opportunity to reach truly magnificent heights of purplitude:

How silently and sweetly the moon's rays fall upon the water, upon the meadows, and upon the woods. The scenery appeared the work of enchantment, some fairy land, waiting the appearance of its inhabitants. No sound met the ear; the very wind was hushed; nothing was there to distract the sense of sight, save the power of reflection.

This, indeed, would aid the effect of such a scene. A cloudless sky, the stars all radiant with beauty, while the moon, rising higher and higher in the heavens, increasing in the strength and refulgence of her light, and dimming the very stars, which seemed to grow gradually invisible as the majesty of the queen of night became more and more manifest.

The dark woods and the open meadows contrasted more and more strongly; like light and shade, the earth and sky were not more distinct and apart; and the ripling stream, that rushed along with all the impetuosity of uneven ground.

The banks are clothed with verdure; the tall sedges, here and there, lined the sides; beds of bulrushes raised their heads high above all else, and threw out their round clumps of blossoms like tufts, and looked strange in the light of the moon.

Here and there, too, the willows bent gracefully over the stream, and their long leaves were wafted and borne up and down by the gentler force of the stream.

Below, the stream widened, and ran foaming over a hard, stony bottom, and near the middle is a heap of stones—of large stones, that form the bed of the river, from which the water has washed away all earthy particles, and left them by themselves.

These stones in winter could not be seen, they were all under water, and the stream washed over in a turbulent and tumultuous manner. But now, when the water was clear and low, they are many of them positively out of the water, the stream running around and through their interstices; the water-weeds here and there lying at the top of the stream, and blossoming beautifully.

The daisy-like blossoms danced and waved gently on the moving flood, at the same time they shone in the moonlight, like fairy faces rising from the depths of the river, to receive the principle of life from the moon's rays.

'Tis sweet to wander in the moonlight at such an hour, and it is sweet to look upon such a scene with an unruffled mind, and to give way to the feelings that are engendered by a walk by the river side.

And so on and so on and so on. But lo, all is not well: there is a form lying in the babbling brook, i.e. the dead Hungarian:

How it came there it would be difficult to say. It appeared as though, when the waters were high, the body had floated down, and, at the subsidence of the waters, it had been left upon the stones, and now it was exposed to view.

It was strange and mysterious, and those who might look upon such a sight would feel their blood chill, and their body creep, to contemplate the remains of humanity in such a place, and in such a condition as that must be in.

A human life had been taken! How? Who could tell? Perhaps accident alone was the cause of it; perhaps some one had taken a life by violent means, and thrown the body in the waters to conceal the fact and the crime.


The moon continues to rise; its silvery rays creep ever nearer the dark and mysterious form; Rymer/Prest are unintentionally hilarious:

Now and then a fish leaps out of the stream, and just exhibits itself, as much as to say, "There are things living in the stream, and I am one of them."

After several million more words the moonlight does its thing; the dead guy respawns and proceeds to swim off down the river. It turns out that all this time the locals have been standing there watching:

During the continuance of this singular scene, not one word had passed between the landlord and his companions. When the blacksmith fired the fowling-piece, and saw the stranger fall, apparently lifeless, upon the stepping-stones that crossed the river, he became terrified at what he had done, and gazed upon the seeming lifeless form with a face on which the utmost horror was depicted.

They all seemed transfixed to the spot, and although each would have given worlds to move away, a kind of nightmare seemed to possess them, which stunned all their faculties, and brought over them a torpidity from which they found it impossible to arouse themselves.

But, when the apparently dead man moved again, and when, finally, the body, which appeared so destitute of life, rolled into the stream, and floated away with the tide, their fright might be considered to have reached its climax. The absence of the body, however, had seemingly, at all events, the effect of releasing them from the mental and physical thraldom in which they were, and they were enabled to move from the spot, which they did immediately, making their way towards the town with great speed.

I’d like to point out that inland streams don’t have goddamn tides, thanks. The locals don’t know what the fuck to make out of any of this, and have to come up with excuses for where they’ve been all this time, and the landlord is understandably slightly worried that his mysterious guest will return and be ticked off about getting shot. Rymer/Prest have truly outdone themselves in terms of Hilariously Bad Writing this time around, but they reach stunning and unprecedented heights with the closing sentences of the chapter.

And now we will return to the cottage where the Bannerworth family were at all events, making themselves quite as happy as they did at their ancient mansion, in order to see what is there passing, and how Dr. Chillingworth made an effort to get up some evidence of something that the Bannerworth family knew nothing of, therefore could not very well be expected to render him much assistance. That he did, however, make what he considered an important discovery, we shall perceive in the course of the ensuing chapter, in which it will be seen that the best hidden things will, by the merest accident, sometimes come to light, and that, too, when least expected by any one at all connected with the result.

okay then thank you for that crystalline, pellucid statement, guys, all is completely understood