Thomas Preskett Prest.

Varney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood online

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bottle. "We couldn't desire better entertainment, where the reckoning is
all paid."

"Excellent!"

"Very good!"

"Capital wine this!"

"I say, Huggins!"

"Well," said Huggins.

"What are you drinking?"

"Wine."

"What wine?"

"Danged if I know," was the reply. "It's wine, I suppose; for I know it
ain't beer nor spirits; so it must be wine."

"Are you sure it ain't bottled men's blood?"

"Eh?"

"Bottled blood, man! Who knows what a vampyre drinks? It may be his
wine. He may feast upon that before he goes to bed of a night, drink
anybody's health, and make himself cheerful on bottled blood!"

"Oh, danged! I'm so sick; I wish I hadn't taken the stuff. It may be as
you say, neighbour, and then we be cannibals."

"Or vampyres."

"There's a pretty thing to think of."

By this time some were drunk, some were partially so, and the remainder
were crowding into the cellars to get their share of the wine.

The servants had now slunk away; they were no longer noticed by the
rioters, who, having nobody to oppose them, no longer thought of
anything, save the searching after the vampyre, and the destruction of
the property. Several hours had been spent in this manner, and yet they
could not find the object of their search.

There was not a room, or cupboard, or a cellar, that was capable of
containing a cat, that they did not search, besides a part of the
rioters keeping a very strict watch on the outside of the house and all
about the grounds, to prevent the possibility of the escape of the
vampyre.

There was a general cessation of active hostilities at that moment; a
reaction after the violent excitement and exertion they had made to get
in. Then the escape of their victim, and the mysterious manner in which
he got away, was also a cause of the reaction, and the rioters looked in
each others' countenances inquiringly.

Above all, the discovery of the wine-cellar tended to withdraw them from
violent measures; but this could not last long, there must be an end to
such a scene, for there never was a large body of men assembled for an
evil purpose, who ever were, for any length of time, peaceable.

To prevent the more alarming effects of drunkenness, some few of the
rioters, after having taken some small portion of the wine, became, from
the peculiar flavour it possessed, imbued with the idea that it was
really blood, and forthwith commenced an instant attack upon the wine
and liquors, and they were soon mingling in one stream throughout the
cellars.

This destruction was loudly declaimed against by a large portion of the
rioters, who were drinking; but before they could make any efforts to
save the liquor, the work of destruction had not only been begun, but
was ended, and the consequence was, the cellars were very soon evacuated
by the mob.




CHAPTER LIII.

THE DESTRUCTION OF SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S HOUSE BY FIRE. - THE ARRIVAL OF
THE MILITARY, AND A SECOND MOB.


[Illustration]

Thus many moments had not elapsed ere the feelings of the rioters became
directed into a different channel from that in which it had so lately
flowed. When urged about the house and grounds for the vampyre, they
became impatient and angry at not finding him. Many believed that he was
yet about the house, while many were of opinion that he had flown away
by some mysterious means only possessed by vampyres and such like
people.

"Fire the house, and burn him out," said one.

"Fire the house!"

"Burn the den!" now arose in shouts from all present, and then the mob
were again animated by the love of mischief that seemed to be the
strongest feelings that animated them.

"Burn him out - burn him out!" were the only words that could be heard
from any of the mob. The words ran through the house like wildfire,
nobody thought of anything else, and all were seen running about in
confusion.

There was no want of good will on the part of the mob to the
undertaking; far from it, and they proceeded in the work _con amore_.
They worked together with right good will, and the result was soon seen
by the heaps of combustible materials that were collected in a short
time from all parts of the house.

All the old dry wood furniture that could be found was piled up in a
heap, and to these were added a number of faggots, and also some
shavings that were found in the cellar.

"All right!" exclaimed one man, in exultation.

"Yes," replied a second; "all right - all right! Set light to it, and he
will be smoked out if not burned."

"Let us be sure that all are out of the house," suggested one of the
bystanders.

"Ay, ay," shouted several; "give them all a chance. Search through the
house and give them a warning."

"Very well; give me the light, and then when I come back I will set
light to the fire at once, and then I shall know all is empty, and so
will you too."

This was at once agreed to by all, with acclamations, and the light
being handed to the man, he ascended the stairs, crying out in a loud
voice, -

"Come out - come out! the house is on fire!"

"Fire! fire! fire!" shouted the mob as a chorus, every now and then at
intervals.

In about ten minutes more, there came a cry of "all right; the house is
empty," from up the stairs, and the man descended in haste to the hall.

"Make haste, lads, and fire away, for I see the red coats are leaving
the town."

"Hurra! hurra!" shouted the infuriated mob. "Fire - fire - fire the house!
Burn out the vampyre! Burn down the house - burn him out, and see if he
can stand fire."

Amidst all this tumult there came a sudden blaze upon all around, for
the pile had been fired.

"Hurra!" shouted the mob - "hurra!" and they danced like maniacs round
the fire; looking, in fact, like so many wild Indians, dancing round
their roasting victims, or some demons at an infernal feast.

The torch had been put to twenty different places, and the flames united
into one, and suddenly shot up with a velocity, and roared with a sound
that caused many who were present to make a precipitate retreat from the
hall.

This soon became a necessary measure of self-preservation, and it
required no urging to induce them to quit a place that was burning
rapidly and even furiously.

"Get the poles and firewood - get faggots," shouted some of the mob, and,
lo, it was done almost by magic. They brought the faggots and wood piled
up for winter use, and laid them near all the doors, and especially the
main entrance. Nay, every gate or door belonging to the outhouses was
brought forward and placed upon the fire, which now began to reach the
upper stories.

"Hurra - fire! Hurra - fire!"

And a loud shout of triumph came from the mob as they viewed the
progress of the flames, as they came roaring and tearing through the
house doors and the windows.

Each new victory of the element was a signal to the mob for a cheer; and
a hearty cheer, too, came from them.

"Where is the vampyre now?" exclaimed one.

"Ha! where is he?" said another.

"If he be there," said the man, pointing to the flames, "I reckon he's
got a warm berth of it, and, at the same time, very little water to boil
in his kettle."

"Ha, ha! what a funny old man is Bob Mason; he's always poking fun; he'd
joke if his wife were dying."

"There is many a true word spoken in jest," suggested another; "and, to
my mind, Bob Mason wouldn't be very much grieved if his wife were to
die."

"Die?" said Bob; "she and I have lived and quarrelled daily a matter of
five-and-thirty years, and, if that ain't enough to make a man sick of
being married, and of his wife, hand me, that's all. I say I am tired."

This was said with much apparent sincerity, and several laughed at the
old man's heartiness.

"It's all very well," said the old man; "it's all very well to laugh
about matters you don't understand, but I know it isn't a joke - not a
bit on it. I tells you what it is, neighbour, I never made but one grand
mistake in all my life."

"And what was that?"

"To tie myself to a woman."

"Why, you'd get married to-morrow if your wife were to die to-day," said
one.

"If I did, I hope I may marry a vampyre. I should have something then to
think about. I should know what's o'clock. But, as for my old woman,
lord, lord, I wish Sir Francis Varney had had her for life. I'll warrant
when the next natural term of his existence came round again, he
wouldn't be in no hurry to renew it; if he did, I should say that
vampyres had the happy lot of managing women, which I haven't got."

"No, nor anybody else."

A loud shout now attracted their attention, and, upon looking in the
quarter whence it came, they descried a large body of people coming
towards them; from one end of the mob could be seen a long string of red
coats.

"The red coats!" shouted one.

"The military!" shouted another.

It was plain the military who had been placed in the town to quell
disturbances, had been made acquainted with the proceedings at Sir
Francis Varney's house, and were now marching to relieve the place, and
to save the property.

They were, as we have stated, accompanied by a vast concourse of people,
who came out to see what they were going to see, and seeing the flames
at Sir Francis Varney's house, they determined to come all the way, and
be present.

The military, seeing the disturbance in the distance, and the flames
issuing from the windows, made the best of their way towards the scene
of tumult with what speed they could make.

"Here they come," said one.

"Yes, just in time to see what is done."

"Yes, they can go back and say we have burned the vampyre's house
down - hurra!"

"Hurra!" shouted the mob, in prolonged accents, and it reached the ears
of the military.

The officer urged the men onwards, and they responded to his words, by
exerting themselves to step out a little faster.

"Oh, they should have been here before this; it's no use, now, they are
too late."

"Yes, they are too late."

"I wonder if the vampyre can breathe through the smoke, and live in
fire," said one.

"I should think he must be able to do so, if he can stand shooting, as
we know he can - you can't kill a vampyre; but yet he must be consumed,
if the fire actually touches him, but not unless he can bear almost
anything."

"So he can."

"Hurra!" shouted the mob, as a tall flame shot through the top windows
of the house.

The fire had got the ascendant now, and no hopes could be entertained,
however extravagant, of saving the smallest article that had been left
in the mansion.

"Hurra!" shouted the mob with the military, who came up with them.

"Hurra!" shouted the others in reply.

"Quick march!" said the officer; and then, in a loud, commanding tone,
he shouted, "Clear the way, there! clear the way."

"Ay, there's room enough for you," said old Mason; "what are you making
so much noise about?"

There was a general laugh at the officer, who took no notice of the
words, but ordered his men up before the burning pile, which was now an
immense mass of flame.

The mob who had accompanied the military now mingled with the mob that
had set the house of Sir Francis Varney on fire ere the military had
come up with them.

"Halt!" cried out the officer; and the men, obedient to the word of
command, halted, and drew up in a double line before the house.

There were then some words of command issued, and some more given to
some of the subalterns, and a party of men, under the command of a
sergeant, was sent off from the main body, to make a circuit of the
house and grounds.

The officer gazed for some moments upon the burning pile without
speaking; and then, turning to the next in command, he said in low
tones, as he looked upon the mob, -

"We have come too late."

"Yes, much."

"The house is now nearly gutted."

"It is."

"And those who came crowding along with us are inextricably mingled with
the others who have been the cause of all this mischief: there's no
distinguishing them one from another."

"And if you did, you could not say who had done it, and who had not; you
could prove nothing."

"Exactly."

"I shall not attempt to take prisoners, unless any act is perpetrated
beyond what has been done."

"It is a singular affair."

"Very."

"This Sir Francis Varney is represented to be a courteous, gentlemanly
man," said the officer.

"No doubt about it, but he's beset by a parcel of people who do not mind
cutting a throat if they can get an opportunity of doing so."

"And I expect they will."

"Yes, when there is a popular excitement against any man, he had better
leave this part at once and altogether. It is dangerous to tamper with
popular prejudices; no man who has any value for his life ought to do
so. It is a sheer act of suicide."




CHAPTER LIV.

THE BURNING OF VARNEY'S HOUSE. - A NIGHT SCENE. - POPULAR SUPERSTITION.


[Illustration]

The officer ceased to speak, and then the party whom he had sent round
the house and grounds returned, and gained the main body orderly enough,
and the sergeant went forward to make his report to his superior
officer.

After the usual salutation, he waited for the inquiry to be put to him
as to what he had seen.

"Well, Scott, what have you done?"

"I went round the premises, sir, according to your instructions, but saw
no one either in the vicinity of the house, or in the grounds around
it."

"No strangers, eh?"

"No, sir, none."

"You saw nothing at all likely to lead to any knowledge as to who it was
that has caused this catastrophe?"

"No, sir."

"Have you learnt anything among the people who are the perpetrators of
this fire?"

"No, sir."

"Well, then, that will do, unless there is anything else that you can
think of."

"Nothing further, sir, unless it is that I heard some of them say that
Sir Francis Varney has perished in the flames."

"Good heavens!"

"So I heard, sir."

"That must be impossible, and yet why should it be so? Go back, Scott,
and bring me some person who can give me some information upon this
point."

The sergeant departed toward the people, who looked at him without any
distrust, for he came single-handed, though they thought he came with
the intention of learning what they knew of each other, and so stroll
about with the intention of getting up accusations against them. But
this was not the case, the officer didn't like the work well enough;
he'd rather have been elsewhere.

[Illustration]

At length the sergeant came to one man, whom he accosted, and said to
him, -

"Do you know anything of yonder fire?"

"Yes: I do know it is a fire."

"Yes, and so do I."

"My friend," said the sergeant, "when a soldier asks a question he does
not expect an uncivil answer."

"But a soldier may ask a question that may have an uncivil end to it."

"He may; but it is easy to say so."

"I do say so, then, now."

"Then I'll not trouble you any more."

The sergeant moved on a pace or two more, and then, turning to the mob,
he said, -

"Is there any one among you who can tell me anything concerning the fate
of Sir Francis Varney?"

"Burnt!"

"Did you see him burnt?"

"No; but I saw him."

"In the flames?"

"No; before the house was on fire."

"In the house?"

"Yes; and he has not been seen to leave it since, and we conclude he
must have been burned."

"Will you come and say as much to my commanding officer? It is all I
want."

"Shall I be detained?"

"No."

"Then I will go," said the man, and he hobbled out of the crowd towards
the sergeant. "I will go and see the officer, and tell him what I know,
and that is very little, and can prejudice no one."

"Hurrah!" said the crowd, when they heard this latter assertion; for, at
first, they began to be in some alarm lest there should be something
wrong about this, and some of them get identified as being active in the
fray.

The sergeant led the man back to the spot, where the officer stood a
little way in advance of his men.

"Well, Scott," he said, "what have we here?"

"A man who has volunteered a statement, sir."

"Oh! Well, my man, can you say anything concerning all this disturbance
that we have here?"

"No, sir."

"Then what did you come here for?"

"I understood the sergeant to want some one who could speak of Sir
Francis Varney."

"Well?"

"I saw him."

"Where?"

"In the house."

"Exactly; but have you not seen him out of it?"

"Not since; nor any one else, I believe."

"Where was he?"

"Upstairs, where he suddenly disappeared, and nobody can tell where he
may have gone to. But he has not been seen out of the house since, and
they say he could not have gone bodily out if they had not seen him."

"He must have been burnt," said the officer, musingly; "he could not
escape, one would imagine, without being seen by some one out of such a
mob."

"Oh, dear no, for I am told they placed a watch at every hole, window,
or door however high, and they saw nothing of him - not even fly out!"

"Fly out! I'm speaking of a man!"

"And I of a vampire!" said the man carelessly.

"A vampyre! Pooh, pooh!"

"Oh no! Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre! There can be no sort of doubt
about it. You have only to look at him, and you will soon be satisfied
of that. See his great sharp teeth in front, and ask yourself what they
are for, and you will soon find the answer. They are to make holes with
in the bodies of his victims, through which he can suck their blood!"

The officer looked at the man in astonishment for a few moments, as if
he doubted his own ears, and then he said, -

"Are you serious?"

"I am ready to swear to it."

"Well, I have heard a great deal about popular superstition, and thought
I had seen something of it; but this is decidedly the worst case that
ever I saw or heard of. You had better go home, my man, than, by your
presence, countenance such a gross absurdity."

"For all that," said the man, "Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre - a
blood-sucker - a human blood-sucker!"

"Get away with you," said the officer, "and do not repeat such folly
before any one."

The man almost jumped when he heard the tone in which this was spoken,
for the officer was both angry and contemptuous, when he heard the words
of the man.

"These people," he added, turning to the sergeant, "are ignorant in the
extreme. One would think we had got into the country of vampires,
instead of a civilised community."

The day was going down now; the last rays of the setting sun glimmered
upwards, and still shone upon the tree-tops. The darkness of night was
still fast closing around them. The mob stood a motley mass of human
beings, wedged together, dark and sombre, gazing upon the mischief that
had been done - the work of their hands. The military stood at ease
before the burning pile, and by their order and regularity, presented a
contrast to the mob, as strongly by their bright gleaming arms, as by
their dress and order.

The flames now enveloped the whole mansion. There was not a window or a
door from which the fiery element did not burst forth in clouds, and
forked flames came rushing forth with a velocity truly wonderful.

The red glare of the flames fell upon all objects around for some
distance - the more especially so, as the sun had sunk, and a bank of
clouds rose from beneath the horizon and excluded all his rays; there
was no twilight, and there was, as yet, no moon.

The country side was enveloped in darkness, and the burning house could
be seen for miles around, and formed a rallying-point to all men's eyes.

The engines that were within reach came tearing across the country, and
came to the fire; but they were of no avail. There was no supply of
water, save from the ornamental ponds. These they could only get at by
means that were tedious and unsatisfactory, considering the emergency of
the case.

The house was a lone one, and it was being entirely consumed before they
arrived, and therefore there was not the remotest chance of saving the
least article. Had they ever such a supply of water, nothing could have
been effected by it.

Thus the men stood idly by, passing their remarks upon the fire and the
mob.

Those who stood around, and within the influence of the red glare of the
flames, looked like so many demons in the infernal regions, watching the
progress of lighting the fire, which we are told by good Christians is
the doom of the unfortunate in spirit, and the woefully unlucky in
circumstances.

It was a strange sight that; and there were many persons who would,
without doubt, have rather been snug by their own fire-side than they
would have remained there but it happened that no one felt inclined to
express his inclination to his neighbour, and, consequently, no one said
anything on the subject.

None would venture to go alone across the fields, where the spirit of
the vampyre might, for all they knew to the contrary, be waiting to
pounce upon them, and worry them.

No, no; no man would have quitted that mob to go back alone to the
village; they would sooner have stood there all night through. That was
an alternative that none of the number would very willingly accept.

The hours passed away, and the house that had been that morning a noble
and well-furnished mansion, was now a smouldering heap of ruins. The
flames had become somewhat subdued, and there was now more smoke than
flames.

The fire had exhausted itself. There was now no more material that could
serve it for fuel, and the flames began to become gradually enough
subdued.

Suddenly there was a rush, and then a bright flame shot upward for an
instant, so bright and so strong, that it threw a flash of light over
the country for miles; but it was only momentary, and it subsided.

The roof, which had been built strong enough to resist almost anything,
after being burning for a considerable time, suddenly gave way, and came
in with a tremendous crash, and then all was for a moment darkness.

After this the fire might be said to be subdued, it having burned itself
out; and the flames that could now be seen were but the result of so
much charred wood, that would probably smoulder away for a day or two,
if left to itself to do so. A dense mass of smoke arose from the ruins,
and blackened the atmosphere around, and told the spectators the work
was done.




CHAPTER LV.

THE RETURN OF THE MOB AND MILITARY TO THE TOWN. - THE MADNESS OF THE
MOB. - THE GROCER'S REVENGE.


[Illustration]

On the termination of the conflagration, or, rather, the fall of the
roof, with the loss of grandeur in the spectacle, men's minds began to
be free from the excitement that chained them to the spot, watching the
progress of that element which has been truly described as a very good
servant, but a very bad master; and of the truth of this every one must
be well satisfied.

There was now remaining little more than the livid glare of the hot and
burning embers; and this did not extend far, for the walls were too
strongly built to fall in from their own weight; they were strong and
stout, and intercepted the little light the ashes would have given out.

The mob now began to feel fatigued and chilly. It had been standing and
walking about many hours, and the approach of exhaustion could not be
put off much longer, especially as there was no longer any great
excitement to carry it off.

The officer, seeing that nothing was to be done, collected his men
together, and they were soon seen in motion. He had been ordered to stop
any tumult that he might have seen, and to save any property. But there
was nothing to do now; all the property that could have been saved was
now destroyed, and the mob were beginning to disperse, and creep towards
their own houses.

The order was then given for the men to take close order, and keep
together, and the word to march was given, which the men obeyed with
alacrity, for they had no good-will in stopping there the whole of the
night.

The return to the village of both the mob and the military was not
without its vicissitudes; accidents of all kinds were rife amongst them;
the military, however, taking the open paths, soon diminished the
distance, and that, too, with little or no accidents, save such as might
have been expected from the state of the fields, after they had been so
much trodden down of late.

Not so the townspeople or the peasantry; for, by way of keeping up their
spirits, and amusing themselves on their way home, they commenced
larking, as they called it, which often meant the execution of practical
jokes, and these sometimes were of a serious nature.

The night was dark at that hour, especially so when there was a number



Online LibraryThomas Preskett PrestVarney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood → online text (page 39 of 75)