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Thomas Peckett Prest
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 963 pages of information about Varney the Vampire.

“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.

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