Art Theft and Ent Henchmen: The Farewell of Varney the Vampyre

Previously on: Varney is chased by policemen, escapes them, and collapses; our heroes dig up Varney and Marma-B’s murder victim for the property deeds buried with him; the Hungarian vampyre, whose hovercraft is not full of eels, shows up briefly and pointlessly and departs.

We pick up with Dr. Chillingworth, having presumably left the others at the Cottage of Undisclosed Location, heading over to Bannerworth Hall to keep an eye on the portrait. He is distracted by eavesdropping on a pair of NPCs having an infodump conversation regarding the private affairs of one of them for absolutely no reason I can work out. Seriously:

As Mr. Chillingworth was going along, he thought he observed two men sitting inside a hedge, close to a hay-rick, and thinking neither of them had any business there, he determined to listen to their conversation, and ascertain if it had any evil tendency, or whether it concerned the late event.

Having approached near the gate, and they being on the other side, he got over without any noise, and, unperceived by either of them, crept close up to them.

"So you haven't long come from sea?"

"No; I have just landed."

"How is it you have thrown aside your seaman's clothes and taken to these?"

"Just to escape being found out."

"Found out! what do you mean by that? Have you been up to anything?"

"Yes, I have, Jack. I have been up to something, worse luck to me; but I'm not to be blamed either."

"What is it all about?" inquired his companion. "I always thought you were such a steady-going old file that there was no going out of the even path with you."

"Nor would there have been, but for one simple circumstance."

"What was that?"

"I will tell you, Jack—I will tell you; you will never betray me, I am sure."

"Never, by heavens!"

no1curr, Rymer/Prest. At length the story of the sailor and his bitchtastic captain and his intended wife and his speculation draws to a close, and Chillingworth continues to the Hall.

Indeed, he had sheltered himself from observation at every point of his road, especially so when near Bannerworth Hall, where there were plenty of corners to enable him to do so; and when he arrived there, he entered at the usual spot, and then sat down a few moments in the bower.

"I will not sit here," he muttered.

dude you just did

"I will go and have a watch at that mysterious picture; there is the centre of attraction, be it what it may."

As he spoke, he arose and walked into the house, and entered the same apartment which has been so often mentioned to the reader.

Here he took a chair, and sat down full before the picture, and began to contemplate it.

"Well, for a good likeness, I cannot say I ever saw anything more unprepossessing. I am sure such a countenance as that could never have won a female heart. Surely, it is more calculated to terrify the imagination, than to soothe the affections of the timid and shrinking female.

"However, I will have an inspection of the picture, and see if I can make anything of it."

As he spoke, he put his hand upon the picture with the intention of removing it, when it suddenly was thrust open, and a man stepped down.

The doctor was for a moment completely staggered, it was so utterly unexpected, and he stepped back a pace or two in the first emotion of his surprise; but this soon passed by, and he prepared to close with his antagonist, which he did without speaking a word.

Rymer/Prest have failed to insert any suggestion that the man who “stepped down” from behind the painting intends antagonism toward Chillingworth at this point, so it looks like he’s being the aggressor. In fact Painting Guy does mean to beat him up and take the painting, but is thwarted in doing so because Jack Pringle deus-exes on in and joins the fray.

A desperate fight ensued, and the stranger made the greatest efforts to escape with the picture, but found he could not get off without a desperate struggle.

Which is what she said. Painting Guy escapes through the window, in the standard fashion. We don’t know who he is; he may be Varney, but he’s only vaguely described:

"Well, he was a large, ugly fellow, sure enough, and looked like an old tree."

"Did you see him?"

"Yes, to be sure I did."

"Well, I could not catch a glimpse of his features. In fact, I was too much employed to see anything, and it was much too dark to notice anything particular, even if I had had leisure."

"Why, you had as much to do as you could well manage, I must say that, at all events. I didn't see much of him myself; only he was a tall, out-of-the-way sort of chap—a long-legged shark.”

 Varney is never described anywhere else as looking like an old tree, so I don’t know how much credence to put in that; it’s probably him, unless he’s got an Ent for a henchman. He may have henchmen, but it’s difficult to imagine.

We repair to the Cottage, where the Bannerworths are discussing their real estate plans. Much is made of Henry’s obstinate pride and determination not to be beholden to anyone else for monetary support, and specifically his decision not to seek the ill-gotten gold belonging to Varney and his father; he can’t be having with that money, it’s tainted by crimes, and therefore the painting is totally fair game for Varney to take as his own. I am like 98% sure the money is hidden somewhere in the frame of the painting, or between the canvas and the backing; it was described as being in paper, rather than metal, form, and could reasonably easily be hidden.

As to the large sum of money which Sir Francis Varney in his confessions had declared to have found its way into the possession of Marmaduke Bannerworth, Henry did not expect, and scarcely wished to become possessed of wealth through so tainted a source.

"No," he said to himself frequently; "no—I care not if that wealth be never forthcoming, which was so badly got possession of. Let it sink into the earth, if, indeed, it be buried there; or let it rot in some unknown corner of the old mansion. I care not for it."

Big of you, Henry. However, Charles and the admiral are not content to dismiss it, being rather more worldly than Master B and more into the having money aspect of the situation. Henry adroitly changes the subject to LET’S TALK ABOUT VARNEY SHALL WE, and surprisingly the admiral demonstrates a remarkably woke sensitivity:

"You don't contemplate," said the admiral, "letting him remain with you, do you?"

"No; that would be objectionable for a variety of reasons; and I could not think of it for a moment."

"I should think not. The idea of sitting down to breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper with a vampyre, and taking your grog with a fellow that sucks other people's blood!"

"Really, admiral, you do not really still cling to the idea that Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre."

"I really don't know; he clings to it himself, that's all I can say; and I think, under those circumstances, I might as well give him the benefit of his own proposition, and suppose that he is a vampyre."

"Really, uncle," said Charles Holland, "I did think that you had discarded the notion."

"Did you? I have been thinking of it, and it ain't so desirable to be a vampyre, I am sure, that any one should pretend to it who is not; therefore, I take the fellow upon his own showing. He is a vampyre in his own opinion, and so I don't see, for the life of me, why he should not be so in ours."

That is pretty damn insightful, actually. He suggests giving Varney enough cash moneys to go be a dick in America, where he’ll be somebody else’s problem; they agree that he, while currently playing nice, may be getting ready to return to full-on nuisance mode; and just as they begin to discuss whether they want to return to Bannerworth Hall or go live in the Dearbrook house that they’ve just dug up the deeds to, Chillingworth’s wife shows up to ask where the hell her husband is. The conversation that ensues is contentious in the extreme, as Mrs. C refuses to believe the heroes don’t know how to get hold of Chillingworth and considers them all a nest of snakes and vipers and vampyres. Exit Mrs. C. And just when they determine it’s time for The Talk with Varney:

"I believe she is a good wife to the doctor," said Henry, "notwithstanding his little eccentricities; but suppose we now at once make the proposal we were thinking of to Sir Francis Varney, and so get him to leave England as quickly as possible and put an end to the possibility of his being any more trouble to anybody."

Except the Americans, but whatever.

"Agreed—agreed. It's the best thing that can be done, and it will be something gained to get his consent at once."

"I'll run up stairs to him," said Charles, "and call him down at once. I scarcely doubt for a moment his acquiescence in the proposal."

Charles Holland rose, and ran up the little staircase of the cottage to the room which, by the kindness of the Bannerworth family, had been devoted to the use of Varney. He had not been gone above two minutes, when he returned, hastily, with a small scrap of paper in his hand, which he laid before Henry, saying,—

"There, what think you of that?"

Henry, upon taking up the paper, saw written upon it the words,—

"The Farewell of Varney the Vampyre."

The Farewell of Varney the Vampyre is what, a scrap of paper? It ought to be a goddamn calligraphed letter with that as the heading; merely labeling a bit of paper as a Farewell smacks of an absolutely astonishing level of conceit. Couldn’t he think of anything else to say, such as thank you for saving my life a whole bunch and letting me crash here rent-free?

It is patent that he has done a runner because he or whoever had been at the Hall has determined where the cash is and plan to grab it quick and get out of there, but come on dude, be a little gracious about it, you’re supposed to have manners.

Henry is obtuse, as usual:

"I must confess," said Flora, "I should not at all have thought this of Varney. It seems to me as if something new must have occurred to him. Altogether, I do not feel any alarm concerning his actions as regards us. I am convinced of his sincerity, and, therefore, do not view with sensations of uneasiness this new circumstance, which appears at present so inexplicable, but for which we may yet get some explanation that will be satisfactory to us all."

"I cannot conceive," said Henry, "what new circumstances could have occurred to produce this effect upon Varney. Things remain just as they were; and, after all, situated as he is, if any change had taken place in matters out of doors, I do not see how he could become acquainted with them, so that his leaving must have been a matter of mere calculation, or of impulse at the moment—Heaven knows which—but can have nothing to do with actual information, because it is quite evident he could not get it."

or he could have been sneaking out at night and having assignations and receiving information, maybe

just a thought

We return to Chillingworth and Jack at the Hall, discussing what to do. Clearly the stranger-who-might-be-Varney wanted the picture; therefore there must be some value to it other than its worth as a work of art, and just as clearly they cannot leave it here to be stolen. They determine to carry it back to the Cottage, which they almost manage, but crucially during the final approach Jack peels off so as not to encounter the admiral (they’ve had yet another fight, undoubtedly over who’s the bigger alcoholic) and leaves Chillingworth alone with the painting:

The doctor had been carrying the picture, resting the side of it on the small of his arm, and against his shoulder; but this was an inconvenient posture, because the weight of the picture cut his arm so much, that he was compelled to pause, and shift it more on his shoulder.

"There," he muttered, "that will do for the present, and last until I reach the cottage garden."

He was proceeding along at a slow and steady pace, bestowing all his care and attention to the manner of holding the picture, when he was suddenly paralysed by the sound of a great shout of such a peculiar character, that he involuntarily stopped, and the next moment, something heavy came against him with great force, just as if a man had jumped from the wall on to him.

This was the truth, for, in another moment, and before he could recover himself, he found that there was an attempt to deprive him of the picture.

This at once aroused him, and he made an instant and a vigorous defence; but he was compelled to let go his hold of the picture, and turn to resist the infuriated attack that was now commenced upon himself.

For some moments it was doubtful who would be the victor; but the wind and strength of the doctor were not enough to resist the powerful adversary against whom he had to contend, and the heavy blows that were showered down upon him.

He gets knocked out, and when he comes to a few minutes later, the painting is — of course — gone.

He wiped his hand across his brow, and finding it cut, he looked at the back of his hand, and saw by the deep colour that it was blood, indeed, he could now feel it trickle down his face.

What to do he hardly knew; he could stand, and after having got upon his feet, he staggered back against the wall, against which he leaned for support, and afterwards he crept along with the aid of its support, until he came to the door.

He was observed from the window, where Henry and Charles Holland, seeing him come up with such an unsteady gait, rushed to the door to ascertain what was the matter.

"What, doctor!" exclaimed Henry Bannerworth; "what is the matter?"


"I am almost dead, I think," said Chillingworth. "Lend me your arm, Henry."

Henry and Charles Holland immediately stepped out, and took him between them into the parlour, and placed him upon a couch.

"What on earth has happened, doctor?—have you got into disgrace with the populace?"

"No, no; give me some drink—some water, I am very faint—very faint."

I love this: they’re so used to angry mobs attacking people by now that they immediately assume Chillingworth has fallen foul of one.

"Do you think it was the same man who attacked you in the house that obtained the picture?" at last inquired Henry Bannerworth.

"I cannot say, but I think it most probable that it was the same; indeed, the general appearance, as near as I could tell in the dark, was the same; but what I look upon as much stronger is, the object appears to be the same in both cases."

This seems reasonable, and we still don’t know if the attacker is Varney or a Varney hanger-on. The nature of Varney’s ~ farewell ~ may possibly be somewhat clearer at this point, unless one is Henry Bannerworth, in which case — never mind.