“Look upon the fare of that corpse.”
“Have you ever seen it before?”
“Seen it before! Lord bless you! yes, a dozen of times. I seed him afore he died, and I seed him arter; and when the undertaker’s men came, I came up with them and I seed ’em put him in his coffin. You see I kept an eye on ’em, gentlemen, ’cos knows well enough what they is. A cousin of mine was in the trade, and he assures me as one of ’em always brings a tooth-drawing concern in his pocket, and looks in the mouth of the blessed corpse to see if there’s a blessed tooth worth pulling out.”
“Hold your tongue,” said one; “we want none of your nonsense. Do you see any difference now in the face of the corpse to what it was some days since?”
“Well, I don’t know; somehow, it don’t look so rum.”
“Does it look fresher?”
“Well, somehow or another, now you mention it, it’s very odd, but it does.”
“Enough,” cried the man who had questioned him, with considerable excitement of manner. “Neighbours, are we to have our wives and our children scared to death by vampyres?”
“No—no!” cried everybody.
“Is not this, then, one of that dreadful order of beings?”
“Yes—yes; what’s to be done?”
“Drive a stake through the body, and so prevent the possibility of anything in the shape of a restoration.”
This was a terrific proposition; and even those who felt most strongly upon the subject, and had their fears most awakened, shrank from carrying it into effect. Others, again, applauded it, although they determined, in their own minds, to keep far enough off from the execution of the job, which they hoped would devolve upon others, so that they might have all the security of feeling that such a process had been gone through with the supposed vampyre, without being in any way committed by the dreadful act.
Nothing was easier than to procure a stake from the garden in the rear of the premises; but it was one thing to have the means at hand of carrying into effect so dreadful a proposition, and another actually to do it.
For the credit of human nature, we regret that even then, when civilisation and popular education had by no means made such rapid strides as in our times they have, such a proposition should be entertained for a moment: but so it was; and just as an alarm was given that a party of the soldiers had reached the inn and had taken possession of the doorway with a determination to arrest the rioters, a strong hedge-stake had been procured, and everything was in readiness for the perpetration of the horrible deed.
Even then those in the room, for they were tolerably sober, would have revolted, probably, from the execution of so fearful an act; but the entrance of a party of the military into the lower portion of the tavern, induced those who had been making free with the strong liquors below, to make a rush up-stairs to their companions with the hope of escaping detection of the petty larceny, if they got into trouble on account of the riot.