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 along 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.