Sorry about the lack of posting last Sunday; I was sick all last week and so devoted myself to work that doesn't take a whole lot of attention, like reformatting old books or waiting an hour for my old POS laptop to start up.
In the previous chapter, the mob set Varney's house on fire. Chapter 54 (THE BURNING OF VARNEY'S HOUSE. -- A NIGHT SCENE. -- POPULAR SUPERSTITION.) begins with the sergeant reporting back to his superior officer about the fire. The superior officer sends him back for information, presumably so that JMR can repeat the whole thing about Varney supposedly dying in the fire for the benefit of readers who came in late.
The man who reports the summary of previous events to the sergeant starts out as kind of a smartass but gradually becomes helpful, offering to report to the superior officer himself. But he mentions that Varney is a vampire and suddenly no one will take him seriously.
Meanwhile, the mob continues to watch the fire well into the night, afraid to venture into the dark in case the vampire is still alive and ready to attack. I actually rather like the last bit of the chapter, so I'll quote it in its entirety to increase this post's word count:
The hours passed away, and the house that had been that morning a noble and well-furnished mansion, was now a smouldering heap of ruins. The flames had become somewhat subdued, and there was now more smoke than flames.Since I'm getting frustrated with short chapters/chapters with not much to say about them and want to get through this book a bit faster, Wednesday posting shall (hopefully!) resume this week. Stay tuned!
The fire had exhausted itself. There was now no more material that could serve it for fuel, and the flames began to become gradually enough subdued.
Suddenly there was a rush, and then a bright flame shot upward for an instant, so bright and so strong, that it threw a flash of light over the country for miles; but it it was only momentary, and it subsided.
The roof, which had been built strong enough to resist almost anything, after being burning for a considerable time, suddenly gave way, and came in with a tremendous crash, and then all was for a moment darkness.
After this the fire might be said to be subdued, it having burned itself out; and the flames that could now be seen were but the result of so much charred wood, that would probably smoulder away for a day or two, if left to itself to do so. A dense mass of smoke arose from the ruins, and blackened the atmosphere around, and told the spectators the work was done.