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.


Grave-Robbing and Pointless Hungarians: Varney the Vampyre spends this one largely passed out

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."

"Very likely."

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.


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."


"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.


"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.

Binnorie, oh Binnorie.

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.

VS Presents Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood (and is not making any of it up)

I recently wrote on Twitter that one of the best parts about writing this book series is that I get to re-read Varney the Vamp(y)re again, and one of the worst parts was having to re-read Varney. There’s a lot of it. A lot a lot. The edition over on Gutenberg is 96 chapters long and that’s not even the whole thing; it was originally published as a penny-dreadful serial, and you get the feeling that authors James Malcolm Rymer and/or Thomas Preskett Prest were getting paid not by the word but the inch, or possibly the yard. (According to Wiki, grain of salt included, the entire book contains something like 667,000 words.)

And since I’m reading it again, or skimming it, anyway, to find useful details, I am going to share a little of it with the internet, in a series of brief recaps, to introduce the wonder and horror that is Varney to people who have never encountered him before. You can thank me after you try to un-see lines like the girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!

Varney begins with it was a dark and stormy night:

What is that—a strange, pattering noise, as of a million of fairy feet? It is hail—yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from persons who found their houses invaded by the storm.

Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of the hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be done.

Oh, how the storm raged! Hail—rain—wind. It was, in very truth, an awful night.

We are introduced to our heroine, or at least our first heroine, Flora Bannerworth, who is as lovely as a spring morning and possesses a neck (and bosom) of exceeding pulchritude; she is asleep in an exhaustively described bed in an exhaustively described bedchamber furnished with an ominous portrait, and right away we go thoroughly creeptastic, in the time-honored fashion of vampire lit:

Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth, slightly parted, and exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened even in the faint light that came from that bay window. How sweetly the long silken eyelashes lay upon the cheek. Now she moves, and one shoulder is entirely visible—whiter, fairer than the spotless clothing of the bed on which she lies, is the smooth skin of that fair creature, just budding into womanhood, and in that transition state which presents to us all the charms of the girl—almost of the child, with the more matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.

Ew. Flora and her glistening teeth keep sliding in and out of the present tense, but she is woken by the storm and then does a bit of screaming because the unearthly jagged flashes of lightning reveal unto her a tall dark figure climbing into her window:

The figure turns half round, and the light falls upon the face. It is perfectly white—perfectly bloodless. The eyes look like polished tin; the lips are drawn back, and the principal feature next to those dreadful eyes is the teeth—the fearful looking teeth—projecting like those of some wild animal, hideously, glaringly white, and fang-like. It approaches the bed with a strange, gliding movement. It clashes together the long nails that literally appear to hang from the finger ends. No sound comes from its lips. Is she going mad—that young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror? she has drawn up all her limbs; she cannot even now say help. The power of articulation is gone, but the power of movement has returned to her; she can draw herself slowly along to the other side of the bed from that towards which the hideous appearance is coming.

This is genuinely freaky, and may be the inspiration for some of Murnau’s aesthetic choices in Nosferatu (see Willem Dafoe, as Schreck, doing the nail thing in Shadow of the Vampire). Rymer and/or Prest don’t waste any time in setup before they go right to the vampyre at his hideous repast. Notice here the polished tin description of Varney’s eyes, which is (I think) unique to him, and a wonderfully specific note which I had a lot of fun writing about. People whose irises are literally reflective should wear sunglasses to play poker.

Anyway, so Varney bites her, like you do, and she screams and faints, like you do, and this very slowly rouses the household. The dialogue here is unbelievable:

"Did you hear a scream, Harry?" asked a young man, half-dressed, as he walked into the chamber of another about his own age.

"I did—where was it?"

"God knows. I dressed myself directly."

"All is still now."

"Yes; but unless I was dreaming there was a scream."

"We could not both dream there was. Where did you think it came from?"

"It burst so suddenly upon my ears that I cannot say."

There was a tap now at the door of the room where these young men were, and a female voice said,—

"For God's sake, get up!"

"We are up," said both the young men, appearing.

"Did you hear anything?"

"Yes, a scream."

"Oh, search the house—search the house; where did it come from—can you tell?"

"Indeed we cannot, mother."

Another person now joined the party. He was a man of middle age, and, as he came up to them, he said,—

"Good God! what is the matter?"

And so on, for several pages, before they finally get around to breaking open Flora’s door, and Varney knocks over one of the dimwitted brothers and bounds out the window, but not before the slightly-more-competent houseguest Mr. Marchdale shoots at him. We are then treated to one of the finest scenes ever put to paper in the canon of literature: Varney Tries to Climb a Wall.

"God help us all. It is not human. Look there—look there—do you not see it?"

They looked in the direction he indicated. At the end of this vista was the wall of the garden. At that point it was full twelve feet in height, and as they looked, they saw the hideous, monstrous form they had traced from the chamber of their sister, making frantic efforts to clear the obstacle.

Then they saw it bound from the ground to the top of the wall, which it very nearly reached, and then each time it fell back again into the garden with such a dull, heavy sound, that the earth seemed to shake again with the concussion. They trembled—well indeed they might, and for some minutes they watched the figure making its fruitless efforts to leave the place.

"What—what is it?" whispered Henry, in hoarse accents. "God, what can it possibly be?"

"I know not," replied Mr. Marchdale. "I did seize it. It was cold and clammy like a corpse. It cannot be human."

"Not human?"

"Look at it now. It will surely escape now."

"No, no—we will not be terrified thus—there is Heaven above us. Come on, and, for dear Flora's sake, let us make an effort yet to seize this bold intruder."

"Take this pistol," said Marchdale. "It is the fellow of the one I fired. Try its efficacy."

"He will be gone," exclaimed Henry, as at this moment, after many repeated attempts and fearful falls, the figure reached the top of the wall, and then hung by its long arms a moment or two, previous to dragging itself completely up.

FROZEN WITH TERROR OF THE UNDEAD FIEND here, y’all. Varney eventually gets away, with a bullet wound and no dignity whatsoever, and thus sets up the main theme of the book: Varney Gets Chased By Various Individuals After Doing Something Reprehensible. Next time: thirty pages of stultifying dialogue before the Bannerworths even float the concept of Flora’s attacker being a vampyre, and we get to see Sir Francis Varney being snide.