Previously on: Varney tells everyone his life story complete with total retcon of the opening of the book, i.e. he claims that at no point did he actually bite Flora at all but merely frightened her into fits by leering from the window, when we have multiple incontrovertible claims of bloodletting from the text its own damn self; this is Trumpian levels of lolwut alternative facts. Varney develops Mysterious Wasting Disease and flops around on couches, until…
…a couple of cops arrive to arrest him and he leaps out of the window and runs away. Again.
"Sir," said Charles Holland, "if you cannot explain quickly your business here, we will proceed to take those measures which will at least rid ourselves of your company."
"Softly, sir. I mean no offence—not the least; but I tell you I do not come for any purpose that is at all consonant to my wishes. I am a Bow-street officer in the execution of my duty—excuse me, therefore."
"Whom do you want?"
"Francis Beauchamp; and, from the peculiarity of the appearance of this individual here, I think I may safely request the pleasure of his company."
Varney now rose, and the officer made a rush at him, when he saw him do so, saying,—
"Surrender in the king's name."
Varney, however, paid no attention to that, but rushed past, throwing his chair down to impede the officer, who could not stay himself, but fell over it, while Varney made a rush towards the window, which he cleared at one bound, and crossing the road, was lost to sight in a few seconds, in the trees and hedges on the other side.
Apparently “Varney” is a nom de vampyre and the name under which that individual was hanged is “Beauchamp,” because oh why not. The cops give up after a while, being unable to catch up with Varney and his long-legged Fleeing from Pursuit gait, and return to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location to fill the family in. Of course everybody already knows the saga of the man who was hanged and yet survived, because Varney has spent much of the previous chapter going on and on about it, but they pretend to be surprised nonetheless. It turns out that the blackmailing hangman, whose name is no longer Mortimore but Montgomery because Rymer/Prest are allergic to continuity, was married and had taken precautions to alert the authorities if he happened to disappear on one of his shakedown visits:
"However that may be, Montgomery dreaded it, and was resolved to punish the deed if he could not prevent it. He, therefore, left general orders with his wife, whenever he went on a journey to Varney, if he should be gone beyond a certain time, she was to open a certain drawer, and take out a sealed packet to the magistrate at the chief office, who would attend to it.
"He has been missing, and his wife did as she was desired, and now we have found what he there mentioned to be true; but, now, sir, I have satisfied you and explained to you why we intruded upon you, we must now leave and seek for him elsewhere."
"It is most extraordinary, and that is the reason why his complexion is so singular."
They poured out some wine, which was handed to the officers, who drank and then quitted the house, leaving the inmates in a state of stupefaction, from surprise and amazement at what they had heard from the officers.
Reread that last sentence. It’s so bad. It’s astonishingly bad. It’s Guy In Your MFA bad. First off, there’s the dough-heavy pacing, the list of activities, the unnecessary commas, the repetition of “officers,” and the superfluous last clause that takes all the impact out of the statement. SIGH.
And then guess what happens:
There was a long pause, and Flora was about to speak, when suddenly there came the sound of a footstep across the garden. It was slow but unsteady, and paused between whiles until it came close beneath the windows. They remained silent, and then some one was heard to climb up the rails of the veranda, and then the curtains were thrust aside, but not till after the person outside had paused to ascertain who was there.
Then the curtains were opened, and the visage of Sir Francis Varney appeared, much altered; in fact, completely worn and exhausted.
It was useless to deny it, but he looked ghastly—terrific; his singular visage was as pallid as death; his eyes almost protruding, his mouth opened, and his breathing short, and laboured in the extreme.
He climbed over with much difficulty, and staggered into the room, and would have spoken, but he could not; befell senseless upon the floor, utterly exhausted and motionless.
There was a long pause, and each one present looked at each other, and then they gazed upon the inanimate body of Sir Francis Varney, which lay supine and senseless in the middle of the floor.
I’m going to start counting how many times he faints without being shot first. In one of the book’s many inadvertently hilarious moments, there is a scene break but absolutely no lead-in text to a completely different conversation:
The importance of the document, said to be on the dead body, was such that it would admit of no delay before it was obtained, and the party determined that it should be commenced instanter. Lost time would be an object to them; too much haste could hardly be made; and now came the question of, "should it be to-night, or not?"
Because of the juxtaposition of this and the previous scene, it is difficult to remember that they aren’t talking about Varney. They decide to go a-robbing, completely ignoring the dude lying senseless on the floor:
"Certainly," said Henry Bannerworth; "the sooner we can get it, the sooner all doubt and distress will be at an end; and, considering the turn of events, that will be desirable for all our sakes; besides, we know not what unlucky accident may happen to deprive us of what is so necessary."
"There can be none," said Mr. Chillingworth; "but there is this to be said, this has been such an eventful history, that I cannot say what might or what might not happen."
"We may as well go this very night," said Charles Holland. "I give my vote for an immediate exhumation of the body. The night is somewhat stormy, but nothing more; the moon is up, and there will be plenty of light."
"And rain," said the doctor.
CHARLES YOU ARE AN IDIOT
It is now time for one of the book’s incredibly unnecessary and lengthy conversations, which could have been dealt with in a line or two but takes up nearly five hundred goddamn words:
"Come with me into the garden," said Henry Bannerworth; "we shall there be able to suit ourselves to what is required. I have a couple of lanterns."
"One is enough," said Chillingworth; "we had better not burden ourselves more than we are obliged to do; and we shall find enough to do with the tools."
"Yes, they are not light; and the distance is by far too great to make walking agreeable and easy; the wind blows strong, and the rain appears to be coming up afresh, and, by the time we have done, we shall find the ground will become slippy, and bad for walking."
"Can we have a conveyance?"
"No, no," said the doctor; "we could, but we must trouble the turnpike man; besides, there is a shorter way across some fields, which will be better and safer."
LET’S ARGUE ABOUT THIS SOME MORE
"Well, well," said Charles Holland; "I do not mind which way it is, as long as you are satisfied yourselves. The horse and cart would have settled it all better, and done it quicker, besides carrying the tools."
"Very true, very true," said the doctor; "all that is not without its weight, and you shall choose which way you would have it done; for my part, I am persuaded the expedition on foot is to be preferred for two reasons."
"And what are they?"
"The first is, we cannot obtain a horse and cart without giving some detail as to what you want it for, which is awkward, on account of the hour. Moreover, you could not get one at this moment in time."
"That ought to settle the argument," said Henry Bannerworth; "an impossibility, under the circumstances, at once is a clincher, and one that may be allowed to have some weight."
"You may say that," said Charles.
JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE SHUT UP AND JUST GO DIG UP THE DEAD GUY
"Besides which, you must go a greater distance, and that, too, along the main road, which is objectionable."
"Then we are agreed," said Charles Holland, "and the sooner we are off the better; the night grows more and more gloomy every hour, and more inclement."
"It will serve our purpose the better," said Chillingworth. "What we do, we may as well do now."
"Come with me to the garden," said Henry, "and we will take the tools. We can go out the back way; that will preclude any observation being made."
They all now left the apartment, wrapped up in great overcoats, to secure themselves against the weather, and also for the purpose of concealing themselves from any chance passenger.
In the garden they found the tools they required, and having chosen them, they took a lantern, with the mean of getting a light when they got to their journey's end, which they would do in less than an hour.
After having duly inspected the state of their efficiency, they started away on their expedition.
Or, in other words, “They discussed the best way forward, and determined that while a horse and cart would make carrying the tools easier, it was probably impossible; therefore they set out on foot.” Except I’m not getting paid by the inch.
Off they go, making lengthy and lugubrious conversation about various things. Chillingworth seems to know where the grave is located, which — presumably Varney could have told him offscreen at some point, but I have my doubts. Forward progress is briefly inhibited by their coming across a pair of itinerants getting drunk by a campfire, but Chillingworth solves this problem by shattering the bottle of gin with a well-aimed projectile; the two men panic and run away.
"But, doctor, what in the name of Heaven induced you to make such a noise, to frighten them, in fact, and to tell them some one was about?"
"They were too much terrified to tell whether it was one, or fifty. By this time they are out of the county; they knew what they were talking about."
"And perhaps we may meet them on the road where we are going, thinking it a rare lonely spot where they can hide, and no chance of their being found out."
"No," said the doctor; "they will not go to such a place; it has by far too bad a name for even such men as those to go near, much less stop in."
"I can hardly think that," said Charles Holland, "for these fellows are too terrified for their personal safety, to think of the superstitious fears with which a place may be regarded; and these men, in such a place as the one you speak of, they will be at home."
"Well, well, rather than be done, we must fight for it; and when you come to consider we have one pick and two shovels, we shall be in full force."
"Well said, doctor; how far have we to go?"
"Not more than a quarter of a mile."
They pursued their way through the fields, and under the hedge-rows, until they came to a gate, where they stopped awhile, and began to consult and to listen.
"A few yards up here, on the left," said the doctor; "I know the spot; besides, there is a particular mark. Now, then, are you all ready?"
HOW DO YOU KNOW THE SPOT, is it generally acknowledged to be Shallow Graves “R” Us? Was there a horrible smell that hung around the area and caused people to be wary of it? Perhaps ghosts haunted that particular stretch of road? Throw me a frickin’ bone here.
It’s also not clear how long ago the murder was committed — my impression was many years, but the dead guy is still fairly runny:
They began to shovel away, and continued to do so, after it had been picked up, working alternately, until at length Charles stuck his pick-axe into something soft, and upon pulling it up, he found it was the body.
A dreadful odour now arose from the spot, and they were at no loss to tell where the body lay. The pick-axe had stuck into the deceased's ribs and clothing, and thus lifted it out of its place.
"Here it is," said the doctor; "but I needn't tell you that; the charnel-house smell is enough to convince you of the fact of where it is."
"I think so; just show a light upon the subject, doctor, and then we can see what we are about—do you mind, doctor—you have the management of the lantern, you know?"
"Yes, yes," said Chillingworth; "I see you have it—don't be in a hurry, but do things deliberately and coolly whatever you do—you will not be so liable to make mistakes, or to leave anything undone."
"There will be nothing of any use to you here, doctor, in the way of dissection, for the flesh is one mass of decay. What a horrible sight, to be sure!"
Now me, if I was a horror novelist wanting to get the maximum number of words out of any given grotesque, I’d do a lot of description here. Paradoxically, Rymer/Prest’s lack of loquacity during this scene actually makes it work a lot better and cause a greater impact on the reader. The terse dialogue without tags gives a nice impression of tension and a need to get this godawful experience over with; imagine how much less well this would read if it were in the Let’s State the Obvious Multiple Times mode of the conversation in the garden.
"It is; but hasten the search."
"Well, I must; though, to confess the truth, I'd sooner handle anything than this."
"It is not the most pleasant thing in the world, for there is no knowing what may be the result—what creeping thing has made a home of it."
"Don't mention anything about it."
Henry and Charles Holland now began to search the pockets of the clothes of the dead body, in one of which was something hard, that felt like a parcel.
Nameless Guy can’t have been buried very deep, by Varney’s own admission, and it hasn’t taken our heroes long to dig him up. I know better than to estimate how long will a man lie i’the earth ere he rot without a hell of a lot of information regarding temperature, soil composition, insect activity, etc, but by the description we’re pretty much still in active decomposition and I am still so curious as to how long ago this happened.
"What have you got there?" said Chillingworth, as he held his lantern up so that the light fell upon the ghastly object that they were handling.
"I think it is the prize," said Charles Holland; "but we have not got it out yet, though I dare say it won't be long first, if this wind will but hold good for about five minutes, and keep the stench down."
They now tore open the packet and pulled out the papers, which appeared to have been secreted upon his person.
"Be sure there are none on any other part of the body," said Chillingworth, "because what you do now, you had better do well, and leave nothing to after thought, because it is frequently impracticable."
Nobody wants to come back and dig this guy up again, Henry.
There was little inducement to hover about the spot, but Henry could not forbear holding up the papers to the light of the lantern to ascertain what they were.
"Are they all right?" inquired the doctor.
"Yes," replied Henry, "yes. The Dearbrook estate. Oh! yes; they are the papers I am in want of."
"It is singularly fortunate, at least, to be successful in securing them. I am very glad a living person has possession of them, else it would have been very difficult to have obtained it from them."
Is anyone else confused here? A living person, i.e. Henry, has possession of the papers; otherwise it would have been difficult to have obtained the papers from [presumably a non-living person] — but that’s what they just did gdi.
"So it would; but now homeward is the word, doctor; and on my word there is reason to be glad, for the rain is coming on very fast now, and there is no moon at all—we had better step out."
They did, for the three walked as fast as the nature of the soil would permit them, and the darkness of the night.
Presumably by now Flora and her on-again off-again mother have by now hauled Sir Francis Varney off the floor and arranged him on a fainting couch, possibly even chafed his wrists or bathed his temples with cool water, but we are not privy to this information because now for some reason Rymer/Prest take a screeching turn off into the wilds of WHO CARES ABOUT THAT GUY:
We left the Hungarian nobleman swimming down the stream; he swam slowly, and used but little exertion in doing so. He appeared to use his hands only as a means of assistance.
The stream carried him onwards, and he aided himself so far that he kept the middle of the stream, and floated along.
Where the stream was broad and shallow, it sometimes left him a moment or two, without being strong enough to carry him onwards; then he would pause, as if gaining strength, and finally he would, when he had rested, and the water came a little faster, and lifted him, make a desperate plunge, and swim forward, until he again came in deep water, and then he went slowly along with the stream, as he supported himself.
It was strange thus to see a man going down slowly, and without any effort whatever, passing through shade and through moonlight—now lost in the shadow of the tall trees, and now emerging into that part of the stream which ran through meadows and cornfields, until the stream widened, and then, at length, a ferry-house was to be seen in the distance.
Then came the ferryman out of his hut, to look upon the beautiful moonlight scene. It was cold, but pure, and brilliantly light. The chaste moon was sailing through the heavens, and the stars diminished in their lustre by the power of the luminous goddess of night.
There was a small cottage—true, it was somewhat larger than was generally supposed by any casual observer who might look at it. The place was rambling, and built chiefly of wood; but in it lived the ferryman, his wife, and family; among these was a young girl about seventeen years of age, but, at the same time, very beautiful.
Welp, we know where this is going. The Hungarian (every time Rymer/Prest mention his nationality I cannot help thinking of naughty phrasebooks) proceeds to fake-drown, so that the ferryman has to rescue him:
The ferryman put back to the shore, when he paused, and secured his boat, and then pulled the stranger out, saying,—
"Do you feel any better now?"
"Yes," said the stranger; "I feel I am living—thanks to you, my good friend; I owe you my life."
"You are welcome to that," replied the ferryman; "it costs me nothing; and, as for my little trouble, I should be sorry to think of that, when a fellow-being's life was in danger."
"You have behaved very well—very well, and I can do little more now than thank you, for I have been robbed of all I possessed about me at the moment."
"Oh! you have been robbed?"
"Aye, truly, I have, and have been thrown into the water, and thus I have been nearly murdered."
"It is lucky you escaped from them without further injury," said the ferryman; "but come in doors, you must be mad to stand here in the cold."
"Thank you; your hospitality is great, and, at this moment, of the greatest importance to me."
"Such as we have," said the honest ferryman, "you shall be welcome to. Come in—come in."
“Here’s my daughter! Look what a super great neck she has for the biting!”
Exactly what you would expect to happen proceeds to happen, and the ferryman is ticked about it:
"It is you, vile wretch! that has attempted to steal into the cottage of the poor man, and then to rob him of his only child, and that child of her heart's blood, base ingrate!"
"My friend, you are wrong, entirely wrong. I am not the creature you believe me. I have slept, and slept soundly, and awoke not until your daughter screamed."
"Scoundrel!—liar!—base wretch! you shall not remain alive to injure those who have but one life to lose."
As he spoke, the ferryman made a desperate rush at the vampyre, and seized him by the throat, and a violent struggle ensued, in which the superior strength of the ferryman prevailed, and he brought his antagonist to the earth, at the same time bestowing upon him some desperate blows.
The Hungarian vampyre is apparently the most passive-aggressive asshole in this book, and there are many passive-aggressive assholes to choose from. He also doesn’t seem to have the freaky vampyre strength thing going for him:
"Thou shall go to the same element from which I took thee," said the ferryman, "and there swim or sink as thou wilt until some one shall drag thee ashore, and when they do, may they have a better return than I."
As he spoke, he dragged along the stranger by main force until they came to the bank of the river, and then pausing, to observe the deepest part, he said,—
"Here, then, you shall go."
The vampyre struggled, and endeavoured to speak, but he could not; the grasp at his throat prevented all attempts at speech; and then, with a sudden exertion of his strength, the ferryman lifted the stranger up, and heaved him some distance into the river.
I mean, sure, that’s one way of dealing with the problem. He bobs off downstream pretty much exactly as he had been doing before this entire abortive little episode, and like Georgie Denbrough’s boat passes out of the narrative entirely. We are never given to understand what the point of this character was supposed to be. He shows up randomly to see Varney, basically wearing a T-shirt saying ASK ME ABOUT BEING A VAMPYRE, gets shot, respawns, floats down a river, does stupid vampyre shit, gets tossed back into the river, and is never seen again.
Next time: Chillingworth Has His Own Agenda; Random Naval Backstory; the Ominous Portrait Rides Again.