At the sound of fire-arms, the women who were outside the inn had, of course, raised a most prodigious clamour.
They believed directly that every bullet must have done some most serious mischief to the townspeople, and it was only upon one of the soldiers, a non-commissioned officer, who was below, assuring them of the innoxious nature of the proceeding which restored anything like equanimity.
“Silence!” he cried: “what are you howling about? Do you fancy that we’ve nothing better to do than to shoot a parcel of fellows that are not worth the bullets that would be lodged in their confounded carcases?”
“But we heard the gun,” said a woman.
“Of course you did; it’s the powder that makes the noise, not the bullet. You’ll see them all brought out safe wind and limb.”
This assurance satisfied the women to a certain extent, and such had been their fear that they should have had to look upon the spectacle of death, or of grievous wounds, that they were comparatively quite satisfied when they saw husbands, fathers, and brothers, only in the custody of the town officers.
And very sheepish some of the fellows looked, when they were handed down and handcuffed, and the more especially when they had been routed only by a few blank cartridges—that sixpenny worth of powder had defeated them.
They were marched off to the town gaol, guarded by the military, who now probably fancied that their night’s work was over, and that the most turbulent and troublesome spirits in the town had been secured.
Such, however, was not the case, for no sooner had comparative order been restored, than common observation pointed to a dull red glare in the southern sky.
In a few more minutes there came in stragglers from the open country, shouting “Fire! fire!” with all their might.
THE MOB’S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY’S.—THE ATTEMPT TO GAIN ADMISSION.
All eyes were directed towards that southern sky which each moment was becoming more and more illuminated by the lurid appearance bespeaking a conflagration, which if it was not extensive, at all events was raging fiercely.
There came, too upon the wind, which set from that direction, strange sounds, resembling shouts of triumph, combined occasionally with sharper cries, indicative of alarm.
With so much system and so quietly had this attack been made upon the house of Sir Francis Varney—for the consequences of it now exhibited themselves most unequivocally—that no one who had not actually accompanied the expedition was in the least aware that it had been at all undertaken, or that anything of the kind was on the tapis.
Now, however, it could be no longer kept a secret, and as the infuriated mob, who had sought this flagrant means of giving vent to their anger, saw the flames from the blazing house rising high in the heavens, they felt convinced that further secrecy was out of the question.