NB: This one features some absolutely classic gross creepy vampire stuff with absolutely classic gross non-consensual undertones; skip it if you’d rather not encounter same.
Previously on: Varney visits the Hall to examine the Ominous Portrait; provokes Henry into direct accusation and proceeds to get angry about it before stalking off; Admiral Bell and Jack arrive in time to see Varney randomly deck Marchdale and run away.
The narrative resumes with an explanation of Charles’s backstory: the reasons he had to go abroad for two years have to do with when he’s going to come into his inheritance (boring) and he was supposed to stay there but got the sad feelings about being away from Flora so snuck back early, okay, fine, whatever. He has the mixed feelings about encountering his uncle, who was one of the people who told him to go abroad in the first place, but of course it turns out all right, with much back-pounding and hand-shaking and exclamations of “my boy.”
Henry and Charles discuss how much Charles loves Flora (a lot) and whether this is touching (it is) and share a manly embrace:
"Where is Flora now?" said Charles.
"She is in her own room. I have persuaded her, by some occupation, to withdraw her mind from a too close and consequently painful contemplation of the distressing circumstances in which she feels herself placed."
"You are right. What occupation best pleases her?"
"The pages of romance once had a charm for her gentle spirit."
"Then come with me, and, from among the few articles I brought with me here, I can find some papers which may help her to pass some merry hours."
Charles took Henry to his room, and, unstrapping a small valise, he took from it some manuscript papers, one of which he handed to Henry, saying—
"Give that to her: it contains an account of a wild adventure, and shows that human nature may suffer much more—and that wrongfully too—than came ever under our present mysterious affliction."
Charles obviously just wants feedback on his novella. This is not the time, dude. He departs to go discuss the vampyre thing with his uncle, and Henry gives Flora the manuscript, which she proceeds to read.
IN THE TEXT. IT’S ALL THERE. THE WHOLE STORY.
I’m not making this up. I couldn’t. Rymer/Prest actually spend four thousand words (4090, to be exact) telling this completely different goddamn story about some count and countess who are up to no good, I don’t know, I didn’t read it because I was so blankly amazed at the choices being made. It doesn’t matter, anyway, because when Flora comes to the end of the manuscript something much more interesting happens. One single solitary guess what it might be:
The footstep which Flora, upon the close of the tale she had been reading, heard approaching her apartment, came rapidly along the corridor.
"It is Henry, returned to conduct me to an interview with Charles's uncle," she said. "I wonder, now, what manner of man he is. He should in some respects resemble Charles; and if he do so, I shall bestow upon him some affection for that alone."
Tap—tap came upon the chamber door. Flora was not at all alarmed now, as she had been when Henry brought her the manuscript. From some strange action of the nervous system, she felt quite confident, and resolved to brave everything. But then she felt quite sure that it was Henry, and before the knocking had taken her by surprise.
"Come in," she said, in a cheerful voice. "Come in."
The door opened with wonderful swiftness—a figure stepped into the room, and then closed it as rapidly, and stood against it. Flora tried to scream, but her tongue refused its office; a confused whirl of sensations passed through her brain—she trembled, and an icy coldness came over her. It was Sir Francis Varney, the vampyre!
OH DAMN NOW WE’RE TALKING
He had drawn up his tall, gaunt frame to its full height, and crossed his arms upon his breast; there was a hideous smile upon his sallow countenance, and his voice was deep and sepulchral, as he said,—
"Flora Bannerworth, hear that which I have to say, and hear it calmly. You need have nothing to fear. Make an alarm—scream, or shout for help, and, by the hell beneath us, you are lost!"
There was a death-like, cold, passionless manner about the utterance of these words, as if they were spoken mechanically, and came from no human lips.
Flora heard them, and yet scarcely comprehended them; she stepped slowly back till she reached a chair, and there she held for support. The only part of the address of Varney that thoroughly reached her ears, was that if she gave any alarm some dreadful consequences were to ensue. But it was not on account of these words that she really gave no alarm; it was because she was utterly unable to do so.
This is a pretty good description of this kind of shock and fear.
"Answer me," said Varney. "Promise that you will hear that which I have to say. In so promising you commit yourself to no evil, and you shall hear that which shall give you much peace."
It was in vain she tried to speak; her lips moved, but she uttered no sound.
"You are terrified," said Varney, "and yet I know not why. I do not come to do you harm, although harm have you done me. Girl, I come to rescue you from a thraldom of the soul under which you now labour."
UH, BECAUSE YOU ARE FREAKY AND HAVE ALREADY VIOLENTLY ATTACKED HER ONCE AND ARE NOW IN HER ACTUAL ROOM, THAT WOULD BE WHY
She manages to faintly gasp for help from Heaven and he’s like “pff, don’t waste your time, listen to me, I gotta say something,” and then launches into an absolutely classic and also absolutely gross sequence of remarks on her beauty and how her boyfriend doesn’t really love her, nope, not the way someone else does, he knows better than other people — and caps it off with his version of thrall, the beauty of his voice. He does, however, eventually make his point: he wants the house. We know that, dude. Presumably he specifically wants the Ominous Portrait:
"The house, and all within, I covet," he said, uneasily. "Let that suffice. I have quarrelled with your brother—I have quarrelled with one who just now fancies he loves you."
"Charles Holland loves me truly."
"It does not suit me now to dispute that point with you. I have the means of knowing more of the secrets of the human heart than common men. I tell you, Flora Bannerworth, that he who talks to you of love, loves you not but with the fleeting fancy of a boy; and there is one who hides deep in his heart a world of passion, one who has never spoken to you of love, and yet who loves you with a love as far surpassing the evanescent fancy of this boy Holland, as does the mighty ocean the most placid lake that ever basked in idleness beneath a summer's sun."
There was a wonderful fascination in the manner now of Varney. His voice sounded like music itself. His words flowed from his tongue, each gently and properly accented, with all the charm of eloquence.
Despite her trembling horror of that man—despite her fearful opinion, which might be said to amount to a conviction of what he really was, Flora felt an irresistible wish to hear him speak on. Ay, despite too, the ungrateful theme to her heart which he had now chosen as the subject of his discourse, she felt her fear of him gradually dissipating, and now when he made a pause, she said,—
"You are much mistaken. On the constancy and truth of Charles Holland, I would stake my life."
He abandons that line of conversation and tells her why he actually needs her help: he wants her brothers to sell the Hall to him, but since he was such a giant douche earlier they will not now consider doing so, and he can Foresee the Future in which he’s gonna have to fight duels with them and those guys are sixteen kinds of dead the second they get started because Varney is such a badass, yo.
"Mercy! mercy!" gasped Flora.
"I will spare either or both on a condition."
"What fearful condition?"
"It is not a fearful one. Your terrors go far before the fact. All I wish, maiden, of you is to induce these imperious brothers of yours to sell or let the Hall to me."
"Is that all?"
"It is. I ask no more, and, in return, I promise you not only that I will not fight with them, but that you shall never see me again. Rest securely, maiden, you will be undisturbed by me."
She’s like “‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d” and he tells her she must keep this meeting secret:
"I will not; I have no secrets from those I love."
"Indeed, you will find soon the expediency of a few at least; but if you will not, I cannot urge it longer. Do as your wayward woman's nature prompts you."
There was a slight, but a very slight, tone of aggravation in these words, and the manner in which they were uttered.
Those women, with their wayward natures. Fuck off, Varney. He’s not done being creepy yet, either:
As he spoke, he moved from the door towards the window, which opened into a kitchen garden. Flora shrunk as far from him as possible, and for a few moments they regarded each other in silence.
"Young blood," said Varney, "mantles in your veins."
She shuddered with terror.
"Be mindful of the condition I have proposed to you. I covet Bannerworth Hall."
"And I must have it. I will have it, although my path to it be through a sea of blood. You understand me, maiden? Repeat what has passed between us or not, as you please. I say, beware of me, if you keep not the condition I have proposed."
And because this is this book, while she’s conducted herself reasonably and with considerable bravery throughout this encounter, Flora now reverts:
"Thanks—a thousand thanks. You may not live to regret even having made a friend of Varney—"
"The vampyre!" said Flora.
He advanced towards her a step, and she involuntarily uttered a scream of terror.
Theeeere we go, there’s the Flora we know and love. “The vampyre, the vampyre,” scream, faint, scene.