Before there was Dracula, there was Varney the Vampyre, the most famous of the sensational penny dreadfuls issued by Victorian-era publishers. Printed anonymously in serial form in 1847, these gripping tales recount the exploits of a deathless creature with an insatiable appetite for blood. A succession of exciting episodes chronicle the horrible fates of Varney's victims as well as the terrifying experiences of the band of comrades sworn to destroy the vampire.
Varney the Vampyre not only thrilled countless eager readers but also established many of the conventions and ideas associated with vampirism.Scarcely any copies of the original edition survive, yet this legendary "feast of blood" continues to captivate readers with its inexplicable deaths, impossible escapes, revivifications, and graveyard rituals. This volume is the second of a two-book set, both of which feature many atmospheric woodcut illustrations.
About the Author
The authorship of the Varney books is a bit of a mystery. Thomas Peckett Prest was known as the "king of the bloods," although many scholars attribute the stories to James Malcolm Rymer, an equally famous writer of penny dreadfuls.
Read an Excerpt
Varney the Vampyre
or, the Feast of Blood Part 2
By James Malcolm Rymer, Thomas Peckett Prest
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1972 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE ADMIRAL'S PREPARATIONS, AND THE VISIT TO DEARBROOK.
IT was quite finally settled between the admiral and the Bannerworths that he was to have the whole conducting of the marriage business, and he even succeeded in getting a concession from Flora Bannerworth, that he might invite more than twenty guests as had at first been stipulated. Indeed, she told him that he might ask forty if he pleased.
The admiral Irad asked for this enlargement of his powers, because he had received from the lawyer such a satisfactory list of people who were eligible to be invited, that he found it extremely difficult to draw any invidious distinction; and, accordingly, he felt fully inclined, as far as he was concerned, to invite them all, which was a piece of liberality he scarcely expected Flora would accede to.
When, however, he got leave to double the number, he considered that he was all right, and he said to Jack Pringle, to whom, as usual, he had got completely reconciled,—
"I say, Jack, my boy, we'll have the whole ship's crew, and no mistake; for, at a wedding, the more the merrier, you know."
"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack, "that's true. I have not been married more than a dozen times myself, at the outside, and I always took care to have lots of fun."
"A dozen times, Jack! you don't mean that?"
"I rather think I does. You know I was married at different ports of India twice; and then wasn't I married in Jamaky; and then after that wasn't I married in the South Seas, in one of the Friendly Islands?"
"A deuced deal too friendly, I should say. Why, confound you, Jack, you must have the impudence of the very devil."
"Yes, I believe ye I have. I look upon it that it's our impudence has got us on in the world."
"How dare you say our, you vagabond? But, however, I won't quarrel with you now, at any rate, for I expect you to dance a hornpipe at the wedding. But mind me now, Jack, I am serious—I won't have any drunkenness."
"Well, it's rather a hard thing that a fellow can't get drunk at a wedding; but I suppose I must put up with that deadly injury, and do the best I can. And now, admiral, as you have looked over that little affair of mine, in going to the lawyer's when you didn't want me, I'll make you a voluntary promise, and that is, that I'll only take two bottles all the day long."
"Two bottles of what?"
"Oh, rum, of course."
"Well, that's moderate; for as I have known you, I think, take about five, of course I can't very well say anything to two; so you may take that much, Jack, for I really think you won't be much the worse of it."
"The worse of it! I should think not, sir. It rather strikes me that two bottles of rum wouldn't hurt a new born baby. It's just for all the world like milk, you know; it has no effect upon me; and as far as being fond of drink goes, I'd just as soon take pump water, if it had a different taste, and was a d—d deal stronger."
"Well, well, Jack, that's a bargain, you know, so we need say nothing more about it."
"I suppose there will be a fiddle, and all that sort of thing?"
"Oh, don't doubt that there shall be lots of fun."
"Then I am your man. I'll show them a thing or two that, will make them open their eyes a bit; and if so be as they wants anything in the shape of a yarn, I'm the proper sort of individual to give it them, I rather think, and no mistake. I'll tell them how you ran away once, with a female savage after you, with a long thing like a skewer, that she called a spear, and how you called to all the ship's crew to come and help you, as if the very devil was at your heels."
Jack very prudently did not wait for an answer to this; for he was rather well aware that it was not the sort of thing that was exactly pleasing to the admiral, who was just upon the point, of course, of getting into one of his rages, which would have produced another quarrel, only, as a matter of course, to end in another reconciliation.
The old man, however, was too well pleased with the unlimited commission he had to do as he pleased regarding the marriage affair, to allow himself to be put much out of the way in the matter, and he bent all his mind and energies towards the completion of that piece of business which he had in hand, and which was certainly the most interesting to him that he had ever been permitted to engage in.
Passing as he did almost the whole of his life upon the ocean, he had never married, and his affection for Charles Holland, who was the only relative he had in the world, was of that concentrated nature which is only to be found under such circumstances.
Charles's mother had always had a large portion of the admiral's regards, and when upon returning home once from a cruise of three years' duration he found that she was dead, and had left behind her an orphan child, he at once avowed his intention of filling the place of a parent to it, and that he had both in the spirit and the letter kept his word, we know that Charles Holland was always most ready to admit.
Perhaps the severest shock he ever experienced was when that letter purporting to be from Charles, but which was really the production of Marchdale and Varney, was produced, and which seemed at the first blush to imply a dishonourable breaking of his contract with Flora; and if anything could have increased his admiration of her, it certainly was the generous and noble manner in which she repudiated that attempt to injure Charles in her esteem, and at once declared her belief that the letter was a forged document.
We may easily imagine, then, from these preceding circumstances, that the marriage of Charles with one whom he so entirely approved of was one of the most gratifying affairs in the old man's life, and that he viewed it with an extraordinary interest.
As we have before stated, he got possession for a month of the house on which he had fixed his fancy, and an extremely handsome and commodious place it was.
It was arranged that after they had remained there for some time they should all move off to Dearbrook together, and as it was only in early infancy that the Bannerworths had seen that estate, they purposed paying it a visit before the marriage ceremony took place.
This was an idea of the old admiral's, for he said truly enough, "You can't possibly know what state it is in till you go there, and it may be necessary, for all we know, to do a great deal to it before it is fit for occupation."
Apart from this consideration, too, it seemed likely enough that somebody might be in it; for of late it had changed hands, and, for all they knew, the Bannerworth family might have to institute a suit at law for its recovery.
The distance was sufficient to make it a whole day's journey; but it was a very pleasant one, for they went in a travelling carriage, replete with every accommodation, and the road passed through one of the most fertile and picturesque counties of England, being interspersed with hill and dale most charmingly, and reminding the younger branches of the Bannerworths of some of those delightful continental excursions which they once had the means of making, but which, for a long time, they had not had an opportunity of enjoying.
It was towards the close of a day of great beauty, for the season, that they reachedthe village of Dearbrook, close to where the estate was situated, and put up at the principal inn, to which they were directed.
The circumstances under which the Dear-brook property had been left for a long time had been such, that there was likely to be some difficulty concerning it.
In fact, it had been used by Marmaduke Bannerworth as a kind of security from time to time for his gambling debts, so it was probable that hardly any one had had it long enough to trouble himself about rentals.
"If we find any one," said Henry Bannerworth, "in possession, I shall not trouble them to pay anything for the use of the house they have had, provided they quietly give up possession, and leave the place in a decent state."
"Oh, that of course they will do," said Charles Holland, "and be too glad to escape arrears of rent; but it would be no bad thing to ask the landlord of this house what is the state of the property; no doubt he can not only let us know whether it be tenanted or not, but, if so, what sort of people they are who occupy it."
This suggestion was agreed to, and when the landlord was summoned, and the question put, he said,—
"Oh, yes, I know the Dearbrook estate quite well; it's a very handsome little property, and is at present occupied by a Mr. Jeremiah Shepherd, a Quaker—a very worthy gentleman indeed, I believe; but I suppose all Quakers are worthy people, because, you see, sir, they wear broad brimmed hats and no collars to their coats."
"An excellent reason," said the admiral; "but I had a friend who did know something about Quakers, and he used to say that they had got such a reputation for honesty that they could afford fo be rogues for the rest of their existence."
"Well, well," said Henry, "we can but call upon him. Do you think that this would be a reasonable hour?"
"Oh, yes, sir," said the landlord; "he is sure to be at home at this hour if you have any business to transact with Mr. Shepherd. He is a very respectable man, sir, and as it is his own property that he lives upon, he is quite a gentleman, and never wears anything but drab breeches and gaiters."
Without waiting to enter into any further conversation with the landlord, who had such extraordinary reasons for his opinions, Henry, and Charles, and the admiral, leaving the rest of the party at the inn, proceeded to Dearbrook Lodge, as it was called, and found as they approached it that it exceeded in appearance their warmest anticipations.
It was a substantial red brick house, of the Tudor style of architecture, and had that air of dignified and quiet repose about it which a magnificent lawn, of the greenest possible turf, in the front always gives to a country mansion.
The grounds, too, seemed to be extensive, and, to take it for all in all, the Bannerworth family had every reason to be well pleased with this first view that they got of their acquired property.
"You will have some trouble," said the admiral, "with the Quaker, you may depend. They are a race that cry hold fast to anything in the shape of pounds, shillings, and pence, and are not very easy to be dealt with."
"Oh, the man will not be so absurd, I should think," said Charles. "It can be proved that the estate was in the Bannerworth family for many years, and your possession, Henry, of the title deeds will set the question at rest. But see what a stately looking servant is coming in answer to the ring which I have just given to the bell."
A footman, most certainly having all the appearance of what is so frequently advertised for as "a serious man servant," advanced to the gate, and, in answer to the inquiry if Mr. Shepherd was within, he said,—
"Yes, truly is he; but he liketh not to be disturbed, for he is at prayers—that is to say, at dinner, and is not accustomed to be disturbed thereat."
"I regret that we must disturb him," said Henry, "for our business happens to be important, and we must positively see him."
Upon this remonstrance the servant unlocked the gate, and conducted them up a path by the side of the lawn which led to the house, and the more they saw of it the more pleased they were with the many natural beauties with which it abounded, and Henry whispered to Charles,—
"I am quite sure that Flora will be delighted with this place, for, if I know anything of her taste, it will just suit it agreeably and comfortably, and I do sincerely hope that we shall be able to get possession without the disagreeable necessity of a law suit."
They were ushered info a handsome apartment, and then told that Mr. Shepherd would be with them very shortly; and they were not sorry to have a little leisure for studying the place before its reputed owner made his appearance.
"I suppose," said Henry, "the best way will be at once to state that I am the owner of the place, and upon what conditions I am willing to forego any claim that I might otherwise succeed in setting up for arrears of rental during the time that he has been here."
"Oh, yes," said Charles; "you cannot be too explicit; but hush! here he comes, and you will soon know what sort of an individual you have to deal with in this matter."
At this moment, the door opened, and Mr. Shepherd, the present ostensible possessor of the Dearbrock estate, and whose appearance spoke to the truth of the landlord's word, made his appearance. But as what he said was sufficiently important to deserve a new chapter, we shall oblige him with one.CHAPTER 2
THE INTERVIEW WITH THE QUAKER AT DEARBROOK.
The Quaker was a man of about middle age, and was duly attired in the garb of the particular sect to which he belonged. There was about his countenance all that affectation of calmness and abandonment of worldly thoughts and desires which is mistaken by so many people for the reality of self-denial, when, really, those who know this sect well, are perfectly aware that there is not a more money-loving, grasping people on the face of the earth.
After gravely motioning his visitors to be seated, Mr. Shepherd cast his eyes up to the ceiling, as if he were muttering some prayer, and then he said,—
"Verily, may I ask to what I am to attribute this visit from individuals who, in this vale of unblessedness, are unknown to me."
"Certainly, sir," said Henry; "you are entitled, of course, at once, to such an explanation of us. I have called upon you because I am the proprietor of this estate, to know how it is that you became in possession of it, and under what pretence you bold that possession?"
Mr. Shepherd slightly changed colour, and staggered back a pace or two before he said,—
"The property is mine, but I naturally decline to produce my title to any body who may ask for it. Thou mayest go, now; behind, thee is the door."
"Mr. Shepherd," said Henry, "I am fully in a condition, as to means and evidence both, to prove my title to the estate, and an action of ejectment will soon force you from it; but I am unwilling, under any circumstances, to do what I fully may do if anything short of that will answer my purpose. I therefore give you fair notice, that if, upon my convincing you that I am the owner of the estate, you go out quietly within fourteen days, I will make no inquiry as to how long you have been here, and will say nothing whatever upon the subject of rental owing to me on account of such occupation."
"I defy thee, friend," said the Quaker; "and if thou givest me any trouble I shall put thee in Chancery, from whence thou wilt not get out for the term of thy natural life; so I give thee due notice, and thou mayest please thyself in the transaction; and again I tell thee the door is exactly behind thee, out of which I beg to request thou shouldest at once walk."
"I tell you what, Mr. Quaker," said the admiral, who had with difficulty restrained himself thus far, "I look upon you as one of the greatest humbugs ever I came across, and that's saying a great deal, for in my time I have come across some thumpers; and if we don't make you smart for this confounded obstinacy, you wolf in sheep's clothing, we will know the reason why. If it costs me a thousand pounds I will make you suffer for it."
"Thou mayest be damned, friend," said the Quaker; "possession is a great number of points of the law, and, as I have it, I mean to keep it. I have a friend who is in the law, and who will put thee as comfortably in Chancery, and with as little expense to me as possible. This is a very charming estate, and I have not the slightest intention of giving it up."
"But you must," said Charles, "give it up to the right owner. How can you be so foolish as to run yourself to legal expenses for nothing?"
"Teach thy grandmother, young man, to suck eggs," said the Quaker. "I wish thee all a remarkably good day, and thou mayest all return from whence thou camest, and hang thyselves, if thou pleasest, for all I care; and having made up my mind to live and die on this very pleasant property, I shall have to put thee all into Chancery."
Excerpted from Varney the Vampyre by James Malcolm Rymer, Thomas Peckett Prest. Copyright © 1972 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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