Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chapter 3: In Which Flora Has a Puncture Wound or Two (But Three Is Right Out)

Previously on Varney the Vampire: It hails. Varney attacks Flora in her room. Her brothers, George and Henry, stand around conversing while Marchdale rushes to her rescue. Varney escapes over the garden wall, but has been shot by Henry.

Chapter 3 of Varney the Vampire is headed thusly: "THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BODY. -- FLORA'S RECOVERY AND MADNESS. -- THE OFFER OF ASSISTANCE FROM SIR FRANCIS VARNEY." A promising start - it sounds like a lot of things happen in this chapter.

Of course, it begins with the author promptly forgetting what has happened in the last chapter. If you recall, it ended with Henry, George, and Marchdale nearly letting the vampire escape while they stood around observing how frightning and inhuman it looked, and then with Henry shooting it (and letting us know what happened in his redundant dialogue). This chapter starts with Henry declaring, "He is human!" More than a bit confusing, but let's move on.

They run outside the garden to find the body where it fell, but find nothing. After telling each other that they see nothing, they suddenly remember their sister: "For God's sake," says George, "let us return to ascertain if poor Flora is killed." There's as little urgency in this and the following lines, of course, as there is in the rest of the story.

Thankfully, the conflict resolves quickly: they return home and learn that she is alive. The mother, who hasn't been given a name as of yet, begs Marchdale to explain things to her. He seemed from the outset, when he jumped into the scene with his no-really-it's-not-a-toy-let-me-reassure-you-that-it's-real gun, to be the fearless vampire hunter type, but perhaps the author had at this point decided to go in a different direction; after all, if you start off with a confrontation between the vampire and the fearless vampire hunter, it's hard to make your story last for two hundred chapters. And so Marchdale says, "in a tone of much emotion," that he's as confused as anyone.

Flora, who has fainted, is revived. She describes the fearful attack, and they "all saw on the side of Flora's neck a small punctured wound; or, rather two, for there was one a little distance from the other." (You understand why I'm compelled to quote so much?) She says she doesn't know how the wounds got there, and falls back to sleep.

Henry and George notice a portrait of their ancestor, Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, who looks suspiciously like their night visitor. He lived about ninety years previously, and squandered the family money. They resolve to move the portrait so it doesn't upset Flora, but seem to forget about it. Flora sleeps soundly, and Henry, surrounded by loaded pistols, watches over Flora until daylight.

And so it turns out that the chapter heading is a lie, as the only thing that actually happened in the chapter was the disappearance of the body (unless "Flora's Recovery and Madness" can be rightfully said to encompass her waking up, feeling faint from blood loss, and going to sleep again). Perhaps we'll hear about "The Offer of Assistance from Sir Varney" in the next chapter.

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