Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chapter 23: In Which a Duel is Arranged


Previously in Varney the Vampire: Henry considers renting the Bannerworth house to Varney. I... smell... SITCOM!

Chapter 23 (THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE TO CHARLES HOLLAND. -- THE CHALLENGE TO THE VAMPYRE.), which is really much longer than it has any right to be, begins with the Admiral advising Charles to fight the vampire. Says Charles:
"...Should I overcome Varney, there will most likely be at once an end to the numerous and uncomfortable perplexities of the Bannerworths as regards him; and if he overcome me, why, then, at all events, I shall have made an effort to rescue Flora from the dread of this man."
Or you'll be dead because you're fighting a f***ing vampire who has survived bullet wounds and... oh, I give up.

So the Admiral agrees to be Charles's second and goes to deliver a note to Varney, leaving Charles to consider "the best means of preventing the resuscitation of the corpse of a vampire." After considering the various means of killing a vampire, Charles has a sudden revelation about what vampirism -- and immortality -- really entails:
"What changes he must have witnessed about him in that time," thought Charles. "How he must have seen kingdoms totter and fall, and how many changes of habits, of manners, and of custom must he have become a spectator of. Renewing too, ever and anon, his fearful existence by such fearful means."
It's a short paragraph, but it's the first real exploration of Varney's age and how immortality has affected his character.

Meanwhile, the Admiral visits Varney with Charles's offer of a duel. Once again, I absolutely adore Varney. His dialogue is just so subtly creepy. (I suspect that is often unintentional, since subtlety is not generally JMR's strong suit.) It's just so casual and calm; for example:
"I have no particular objection. Have you settled all your affairs, and made your will?"

"What's that to you?"

"Oh, I only asked, because there is generally so much food for litigation if a man dies intestate, and is worth any money."

"You make devilish sure," said the admiral, "of being the victor. Have you made your will?"

"Oh, my will," smiled Sir Francis; "that, my good sir, is quite an indifferent affair."
They agree to duel with swords (guns being too modern and barbarous for Varney). And I'm sorry for quoting so much, but Varney just keeps being wonderfully calm and downright smug:
"Oh, I beg your pardon there. I never challenge anybody, and when foolish people call me out, contrary to my inclination, I think I am bound to take what care of myself I can."

"D -- n me, there's some reason in that, too," said the admiral; "but why do you insult people?"

"People insult me first."
So the Admiral leaves in a huff, and in the end the chapter didn't seem nearly as long as it appeared. Varney's presence in the story for which he is the title character does that to one's interest, I suppose.

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