“And pray, sir, what are you shutting up the shop for at this time of the evening!”
“Oh! why, the fact is, I thought I’d just go to the Rose and Crown, and mention that the vampyre was so near at hand.”
“Well, Mr. Philpots, and in that case there can be no harm in my calling upon some of my acquaintance and mentioning it likewise.”
“Why, I don’t suppose there would be much harm; only remember, Mrs. Philpots, remember if you please—–”
“To tell everybody to keep it secret.”
“Oh, of course I will; and mind you do it likewise.”
The shop was closed, Mr. Philpots ran off to the Rose and Crown, and Mrs, Philpots, with as much expedition as she could, purposed making the grand tour of all her female acquaintance in the town, just to tell them, as a great secret, that the vampyre, Sir Francis Varney, as he called himself, had taken refuge at the house that was to let down the lane leading to Higgs’s farm.
“But by no means,” she said, “let it go no further, because it is a very wrong thing to make any disturbance, and you will understand that it’s quite a secret.”
She was listened to with breathless attention, as may well be supposed, and it was a singular circumstance that at every house she left some other lady put on her bonnet and shawl, and ran out to make the circle of her acquaintance, with precisely the same story, and precisely the same injunctions to secrecy.
And, as Mr. Philpots pursued an extremely similar course, we are not surprised that in the short space of one hour the news should have spread through all the town, and that there was scarcely a child old enough to understand what was being talked about, who was ignorant of the fact, that Sir Francis Varney was to be found at the empty house down the lane.
It was an unlucky time, too, for the night was creeping on, a period at which people’s apprehension of the supernatural becomes each moment stronger and more vivid—a period at which a number of idlers are let loose for different employments, and when anything in the shape of a row or a riot presents itself in pleasant colours to those who have nothing to lose and who expect, under the cover of darkness, to be able to commit outrages they would be afraid to think of in the daytime, when recognition would be more easy.
Thus was it that Sir Francis Varney’s position, although he knew it not, became momentarily one of extreme peril, and the danger he was about to run, was certainly greater than any he had as yet experienced. Had Charles Holland but known what was going on, he would undoubtedly have done something to preserve the supposed vampyre from the mischief that threatened him, but the time had not arrived when he had promised to pay him a second visit, so he had no idea of anything serious having occurred.
Perhaps, too, Mr. and Mrs. Philpots scarcely anticipated creating so much confusion, but when they found that the whole place was in an uproar, and that a tumultuous assemblage of persons called aloud for vengeance upon Varney, the vampyre, they made their way home again in no small fright.