Never before had a subject presenting so many curious features arisen. Never, within the memory of that personage who is supposed to know everything, had there occurred any circumstance in the county, or set of circumstances, which afforded such abundant scope for conjecture and speculation.
Everybody might have his individual opinion, and be just as likely to be right as his neighbours; and the beauty of the affair was, that such was the interest of the subject itself, that there was sure to be a kind of reflected interest with every surmise that at all bore upon it.
On this particular night, when Marchdale was prowling about, gathering what news he could, in order that he might carry it to the vampyre, a more than usually strong muster of the gossips of the town took place.
Indeed, all of any note in the talking way were there, with the exception of one, and he was in the county gaol, being one of the prisoners apprehended by the military when they made the successful attack upon the lumber-room of the inn, after the dreadful desecration of the dead which had taken place.
The landlord of the inn was likely to make a good thing of it, for talking makes people thirsty; and he began to consider that a vampyre about once a-year would be no bad thing for the Blue Lion.
“It’s shocking,” said one of the guests; “it’s shocking to think of. Only last night, I am quite sure I had such a fright that it added at least ten years to my age.”
“A fright!” said several.
“I believe I speak English—I said a fright.”
“Well, but had it anything to do with the vampyre?”
“Oh! do tell us; do tell us all about it. How was it? Did he come to you? Go on. Well, well.”
The first speaker became immediately a very important personage in the room; and, when he saw that, he became at once a very important personage in his own eyes likewise; and, before he would speak another word, he filled a fresh pipe, and ordered another mug of ale.
“It’s no use trying to hurry him,” said one.
“No,” he said, “it isn’t. I’ll tell you in good time what a dreadful circumstance has made me sixty-three to-day, when I was only fifty-three yesterday.”
“Was it very dreadful?”
“Rather. You wouldn’t have survived it at all.”
“No. Now listen. I went to bed at a quarter after eleven, as usual. I didn’t notice anything particular in the room.”
“Did you peep under the bed?”
“No, I didn’t. Well, as I was a-saying, to bed I went, and I didn’t fasten the door; because, being a very sound sleeper, in case there was a fire, I shouldn’t hear a word of it if I did.”
“No,” said another. “I recollect once—”
“Be so good as allow me to finish what I know, before you begin to recollect anything, if you please. As I was saying, I didn’t lock the door, but I went to bed. Somehow or another, I did not feel at all comfortable, and I tossed about, first on one side, and then on the other; but it was all in vain; I only got, every moment, more and more fidgetty.”