This is a response to and commentary on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in the style of Dracula, and fitting within its narrative. It’s more of an academic exercise than anything else, but if you studied Dracula you might find it interesting.
I have tried to be deliberate in my choices. Three things that stand out as looking like mistakes that aren’t: the slang being poorly done, the second translator disappearing, the lack of a stylistic model for the commentator in the text.
Two mistakes which I have not corrected: First, I referred to the witches in Macbeth in an unjustifiable way. Second, I used the term “white man’s burden” even though it only came into existence a couple of years after Dracula. Perhaps similar phrases existed before Kipling’s poem?
CHAPTER IX. MINA MURRAY’S JOURNAL
21 August. – I awoke this morning in a room in the women’s section of the hospital. When I first looked at the strange room around me, with its all white walls, I was sure I was still dreaming and lay my head back down on my pillow. Suddenly I remembered my dear Jonathan and it all came back to me…the letter, the packing, the train ride, and the kind sister who met me upon my arrival. I had arrived an hour past midnight and the large wooden door was locked. The poor woman had been asleep and I could see she was eager to get back to bed, but all the same I could not help asking to see my dear. She informed me that the rooms were all locked and that it would not be possible to see him until the following morning. My heart sank but she assured me that he was resting peacefully, and that I should get some rest, as Jonathan would need all my love to help him get better. It broke my heart not to see Jonathan right away but I resolved to do whatever was best for my poor dear. I could hardly sleep from excitement and worry, with Jonathan so close! But I am awake now, and must go see my love…I must remember to write in my diary again tonight, with all the excitement I might forget! Habits are formed best when they are tested most.
25 August. – I have been remiss the past few days and have not written a single word in my diary. I will forgive myself, on account of…oh I don’t need a reason for anything as Jonathan is my reason for everything! My soaring heart, which seeks to break free from my bosom at every moment. My glowing countenance, which could light up the darkest skies of Africa. Even how I stand has changed, as I walk with a pride now I never knew possible. All because of my dear husband! For I am Jonathan’s now. After the ceremony I looked at my love, and it was like seeing him again for the first time. Even now a smile spreads across my face as I think of the dear fellow. Though he is ill, and I worry about him gravely, I steadfastly believe that with the proper care I can offer, and the love it is now my happy obligation to provide, his health will no doubt soon improve.
I want to remember every second of my first few days with Jonathan in Buda-Pesth, for it seems even before we were joined together in marriage that we had begun a new life together. And so I will record here a few things that I did not mention to Lucy in my letter. The dear would have thought me a trifle bore if I had told her every little detail!
As soon as I was awake yesterday, I threw on my dress and walked as quickly as I could, taking care not to run, towards my love’s room. The sister who let me in last night had also been kind enough to tell me how to find Jonathan. I had gone over the directions in my head so many times while lying in bed that now my body made its way through the white halls without even the slightest thought to drive it. I found his room and could barely breathe from excitement! I resolved to be strong, for Jonathan’s sake, and took several slow, deep breaths before turning to go in. But, right as I was about to walk in, I was arrested by the sound of someone laughing.
Behind me, on a wooden bench, sat an old man with a pot-marked face, laughing. He was holding a newspaper, which he occasionally glanced down at, and then he seemed to look directly at me – all along laughing, a toothless grin frozen on his face, opening onto a dark abyss. I was not hurt, as I knew the fault could not lie in me, but I thought of my poor Jonathan and how it would affect him to hear this mocking laugh. In his condition he might think it was about him and he was plenty scared already, judging by Sister Agatha’s letter. Why, every sound might make the frightened fellow startle and jump and I could not bear to think of what laughter might to do him.
Just then a sister I had not seen before came by. She started talking hurriedly and firmly to the man in the local language, glancing every once in a while in my direction, though not turning her head away from him. Presently, he stopped laughing and walked off, waving his hand in dismissal every few steps as a frown drooped his face. The nurse looked at me and smiled apologetically. She asked if I wanted to see Jonathan and of course right away I forgot all about the rude little man and his crow-like laughter. Besides, the opinion of a man so far away from London could not possibly be significant. Still, I decided it might be a good idea to get hold of a copy of the newspaper, in case there was any information in there that could hurt Jonathan and Mr. Hawkins in their business affairs…
Letter, Mina Harker to Lucy Westenra
“Buda-Pesth, 24 August
As it appears in the novel
Letter, Lucy Westenra to Mina Harker
“Whitby, 30 August
As it appears in the novel
Mina Harker’s Journal
31 August. – Jonathan is asleep now, and I must rush off to the translator before he wakes. The dear fellow has taken to afternoon napping, a habit he will have to break when he returns to work. I had found a copy of the newspaper the old man was holding when I first went to see Jonathan. It was lying on a bench in the women’s section that same day.
Sister Agatha had eyed me suspiciously when I asked her for the name of a translator, but I assured her I only wanted his advice on a scroll I had bought at the train station, a souvenir for Jonathan and I to remember the city where we were married. And so, after a final warning to be careful from Sister Agatha, who really is a kind and caring soul, I had dropped off the newspaper with an Úr Várady.
Úr Várady was a small bookish man, with hair rising straight up and circling his bald scalp like a horseshoe. I almost giggled when I saw him push his glasses up his nose only to see them slide back down again. He was such a gentle looking man than I took to him immediately, and I dare say he enjoyed my company as well as he asked me to tea with his wife that afternoon. Of course I said no, as my heart and mind were both with Jonathan, and I would have made simply horrible company. To think of the impression I would have left with them! They would have thought the English a cold and distant people after an afternoon with me in my current state. I thanked him and took my leave, and now I will drop in only to pick up the translations, before rushing back to my love.
I say translations, for I had bought the scroll and had it translated as well, just in case Sister Agatha could not control her curiosity and asked to see it. I had a suspicion that the dear woman might take it as her duty to visit the translator and inquire after me, though I told myself I mustn’t be so distrustful. After all, she had been so kind to my husband and would not do anything to come between us.
Before I go I make another solemn promise to myself, to right away seal the translation in an envelope and place it with Jonathan’s locked journal, never to be seen by these eyes until such time as I hope will never come, when I might need to break my oath to help my dear husband.
Cutting from “The Buda-Pesth Sun,” 21 August
(Found with Jonathan Harker’s Journal)
FROM A COMMENTATOR
Eight weeks ago, in this paper, I wrote of an interloper dumped on our fair city, like a distant relative one wished had stayed away. For the third time in as many years, we were forced to suffer a raving Englishman arriving by train, ranting about wolves, blood, sorcery and superstition of all kind. The English are heretics, to be sure, but now we see that a disease of the soul has spread to the mind as well. Below is an excerpt from my previous column, which I trust the reader will not view it self-serving for me to repeat:
“Is there something in our food? Does our water cleanse the English of all common sense? That they should believe the foolishness that is still heard, to this day in the woods and little villages of Transylvania is an affront to dignity and intelligence. I would have thought that the great English Empire, so admirable and sophisticated, would have advanced past such unproductive thought, would have erected such walls around the human mind as to render it too sacred to be infiltrated by this corruption. I fear for their empire if they cannot survive a visit with a few savages. I see now, that in many ways, we here in Buda-Pesth have advanced past the English in distancing ourselves from the monsters that can entertain and subjugate the mind.
First, came the English teacher, who seemed to have forgotten his native language in his visit to Transylvania yet learned all other tongues, sputtering such virulent nonsense as to make a man wish his ears guillotined at once. Nearly a year to the day followed the book salesman, peddling the same nonsense only with a Scottish brogue. These two were interesting diversions for our city, and I do not pretend that the gossip and jokes did not provide much entertainment. A personal favorite: who is more profitably swindled, a Hungarian country wife or an English merchant? An English merchant; for while the country wife gladly exchanges for silver pots their weight in gold, an Englishman departs with his brain for that of a country wife.
But now this summer, in what has become a seasonal storm in need of name of a clever name, comes this solicitor. I shudder for the British Empire if the English bar is composed of even one more the likes of him. One must imagine a clerical error would be required to allow his mildewed brain to tackle even the responsibilities of a gardener, let alone those of the law. This Jonathan Harker, for so I have been informed he is called, has no more sense in his brain than in his extremities, with the latter by far having more utility as they at least can carry him out of our city while the former only keeps him in our hospitals.”
After his arrival, a blight upon Buda-Pesth if ever there was one, I resolved to visit Transylvania and retrace the paths of these three Englishmen. For I thought it was surely of interest to the savvy reader to know if the mighty British Empire was indeed producing empty eggs by the crate. Fragile shells that our own citizens, yes, you the reader, here in Buda-Pesth, seem to surpass in every measure of manhood and intellect. I returned only three days ago and am delighted to inform the reader that nothing is amiss in Transylvania save for some old clucking hens spinning the same harmless stories heard for years. It is a wonder that despite the mystical danger the villagers literally crouch in fear of, somehow their communities have survived, nay thrived, for hundreds of years! After each story heard I expected to turn around and see only ghosts surrounding me! Logic is not the strong suit of these people, but at least they are safe from the terrors of their minds, as they are only that.
It would seem that, after my first article, the theater here has embraced what amounts to a new trope, the precious, hilarious, delirious Englishman. He arrives by train, always after a business trip in the “mystical” East. He has managed to lose all his baggage and his mind with it, filling his head with nonsense in its stead, which he is only too happy to cackle and crow in every direction and at all hours. His utility has been reduced to fodder for laughter. First, at his regression – a devolution from man to savage, reversing millions of years’ work in a matter of weeks. Second, for the spinster’s tales he now yarns, never short on amusing content and quotable frivolity. Third, for his constant need for medical attention, despite no physical ailments of any kind. Why we do not put him in an institution rather than a hospital is beyond this commentator. But gentlemen, as none of us has yet been infected by what can only be termed the British potato-head famine, an extremely virulent strain of the white man’s burden, the good news is it seems we will soon out-English the English!
Here then, is the summary and totality of what I discovered during my investigation. Nothing is from memory, as all is extracted from a journal diligently kept, in which I wrote every afternoon and every night. Moreover, I kept at all times a small notebook in my jacket pocket, so that no relevant experience ever lasted long in my head before being captured on paper. With me I took a translator, a man whose parents were from the area I visited. Alas, while he proved invaluable, it would be too cumbersome to account for his presence at every second. As such, I will pretend as if I was there alone, making reference to him only if it provides some value to the reader. Finally, at the request of those interviewed, though for reasons I can only guess at, I have left all sources nameless:
Note: I hope the reader will forgive me for an attempt at sober reporting below. I felt it necessary to leave out my customary humor and opinionated commentary in the interest of fact. While I joke about our recent interlopers, I do wish to disprove their fancy with clear, unadulterated facts. For I can see the day when some of the citizens of Buda-Pesth, those who do not read the paper quite every day or engage in regular intellectual pursuits, might come to believe what they hear, if only by its repetition and the reputation of its source. It is a disease, and like all diseases it can either be allowed to spread and infect the entire body of the community, or it can be tackled at its source, disproved at the individual level before the whole is infected. Here what is called for is a Deluge of fact to wash away imagination.
I arrived in Transylvania not the worse for my journey, making my way first by train from Klausenberg, and then through the woods by coach to Bukovina – the nearest village to where I understand the three Englishmen ventured. On the final coach ride through the woods, a rocky journey that our driver seemed eager to finish, I witnessed perhaps a superfluous religious fervor, but nothing extraordinary. The coach was full of adult men, all with large wooden crosses hanging from their necks, crossing themselves at every blind turn or sudden shock to the carriage. None seemed truly afraid, seemingly acting out of habit, as if a danger had recently passed and they thought it wise – or perhaps comforting – to be safe rather than sorry.
I arrived at Bukovina late at night and was led to my room by a kindly innkeeper. My first few days were to be spent interviewing the people of this village. My primary concern was what these individuals had to say, so I have steered clear of superfluous weather descriptions, accounts of trees or roads, and all other manner of distraction from the matter at hand. Suffice it to say that it was, and I am sure still is, a quaint little village, not much different than the ones on the outskirts of Buda-Pesth, and so nothing is gained by reproducing via description what the reader is surely familiar with from a visit to an aunt or grandfather. My opinion will be present only if truly necessary, for I think the facts will stand on their own two feet, and shake hands with the reader of their own accord.
My first objective was to find out about the experiences of the English during their stay at the village. I began with the innkeeper, but he shuddered at my questions and turned away, muttering something about the devil and crossing himself as he shuffled off. I proceeded to the market in the center of town. It was still early and, while the stalls had already been set up, the customers and tradesmen had just started to trickle in. I thought this an opportune time to interview the proprietors of each stall, as surely all gossip and information would have traveled through them. I asked person after person, man and woman alike, about the English travelers. As soon as I mentioned them, faces that greeted me with customary village pleasantness immediately tightened up. Some murmured about St. George’s Day, others grew angry and yelled at me to get away from their stalls, saying I would ruin their business with my talk. All crossed themselves and refused to engage in conversation with me.
At the end of the row of stalls, I turned a corner and passed through a street full of shops. Half were open, and I thought I might have better luck in this slightly more developed section of the village. The cold treatment was repeated in the first few stores I entered, but I had some luck when I arrived at the shop of the local solicitor and moneylender. I suspect my luck was due to his schooling, which took place in Klausenberg. He advised me to forgive his fellow villagers, for they knew no better, and proceeded to tell me what he knew about the English visitors.
He explained that the English had never actually made it to Bukovina. All had been dropped off by carriage at the Borgo Pass, where they proceeded up by private coach to a decrepit old castle, occupied by a hermit of sorts – one Count Dracula. It was of this hermit that the villagers were afraid, because people fear what they cannot see. This Count Dracula it would seem, does not ever make it to town. Rather, he hires Slovaks to deliver whatever it is he desires to and from his castle. An enviable arrangement, I thought. I asked him where I might hire a coach to take me there and he chuckled, explaining that no local would be willing to go up there. I thanked him and asked him to point me in the direction of the stables anyway. He shook his head and sighed, pulling his trousers up by their belt loops, and walked out the door with me to point me in the right direction.
As I had acquired the necessary information from the village, I hoped to leave for the castle that same day. Despite all their fear-mongering, the village seemed a peaceful and friendly place. I do not mean to be funny when I say this, but it did not appear like the type of place under threat of any kind, and I could not make out how these legends survived.
At the stables I enquired about hiring a horse, but no one seemed willing to talk to me, let alone rent me a horse. The grooms and stable boys only crossed themselves and demanded that I leave. As I had not told them my purposes yet, I can only imagine that news in this village travels faster than I thought possible. As there was no other choice, I offered to buy a horse, paying double the usual price, with the idea of selling the horse when I returned for an acceptable loss.
As I made my way out of the stables, I saw one of the men snap his whip at the direction of a boy, who could have been no older than eight, sleeping on the hay. The whip fell short of its mark by barely a foot. The boy’s eyes opened but he did not move, not an inch. The man snapped his wrist again and the whip shot forward, a wave making its way quickly from his hand, through the length of the whip, this time unleashing itself with a loud crack on the boy’s back. I turned away reflexively, cringing as my hands tightened into fists, waiting for a scream. But the boy did not move. I watched in disbelief as the man snapped his wrist again, watching the wave shoot towards the boy a third time. I am not sure exactly what I saw, but it seemed that the boy shot out his hand, like a coiled cobra springing on its prey, and in one motion both grabbed the onrushing tip of the whip and pulled the whip out of the man’s hand. The man was nearly swept off his feet, hitting the ground face first after a short stumble forward. He lay like this for a full minute before rising up and dusting off his clothes, muttering beneath his breath, and crossing himself. None of the other men said anything or even laughed. Finally he turned and walked away, growing louder and more voluble as he went. The boy rose up, dropped the whip and began walking down the road, towards the outskirts of the village. He was covered completely in dirt, and had an odd belt of cloth girding his torn trousers.
I stood there, watching this curious creature glide down the dirt road, not yet sure what to make of what had just transpired. Surely the groom had felt bad after his second blow had actually hit the boy, not fully snapping the whip the third time in an act of mercy. Still, it had been amazing to watch, like an acrobat or trapeze artist at a circus performance. I mounted my horse and quickly caught up with the boy. I slowed the horse down, to match his speed, yet he did not look up. His form was frail, and it did not appear he had eaten in weeks. His face was blackened be dirt and sun and yet, somehow, his skin had a pale quality to it. His left hand was missing the middle finger tip and on his right hand both the middle and ring fingers were only half the proper size. He had similar deformities on his bare feet, which appeared like two lumps of coal. The misshapen belt I had noticed before appeared to by a large bag of cloth, twisted around itself and tied on his side in a crude knot. I called out to him but he did not respond. By now the village had faded into the distance, the trees beginning to narrow the path, so that I was forced to ride closer to him. I called out to him again, offering him food. He did not respond. I found this most interesting, as surely he was hungry. I then asked him if he needed anything at all. At this he finally stopped and turned his darkened face towards me.
It was then that I saw the mark on his forehead. It was a cruel farmer that had branded this boy such. For the skin on his forehead twisted around itself and rose and fell like the mountains and valleys that girded the village. The dirt built up in the crags, caked into mud, and the wrinkled peaks seemed to twist around themselves, seemed to move even as I stared, even to sizzle as I stood still. The boy reached his hand out towards me and a cold shudder nearly shook me off my horse. This was not lost on the horse, who began to neigh and trot nervously, twisting his head away until the reins were taut, so that it was all I could do to hold on to them. This boy must really have been the scourge of the stable, pulling many a tale in his games. His gaze fixed on mine now, and the mark on his forehead seemed to tremble and glow red, as if fed by a furnace; seemed almost to protrude further than before, as if it were alive, as if worms slithered just beneath the surface. I shut my eyes and turned away in disgust, just as my horse began to buck and snort in earnest, almost throwing me off. By the time I regained control of my steed the boy was gone. I checked every direction but saw nothing, not even a footprint. I turned back towards the town, determined to find out more about this boy.
“He come blabberin’ when he first come, he don’t talk now none but he come blabberin’ first.”
I turned back to seek the source of these words and saw that I had passed a derelict of some sort, lying on his back by the side of the road, not twenty yards from where the boy had been. He blended in with the dirt around him so successfully, that I was not surprised he escaped my sharp eye. His palms were beneath his head, which faced upwards towards the sky. His stomach rose from his body like the surrounding hills and was outdistanced only by his gaze. Both clothes and skin were so marred by dirt that they seemed of one cloth, as if he had worn both all his life. From every part of his head and face gray hair sprouted and tangled. He turned towards me, almost leering.
“I says, he come blabberin’ when he first come, he don’t talk now none but he come blabberin’ first.” His voice was harsh from phlegm; it sickened me just to hear it.
“What of it?” I asked indifferently. No good to show too much interest, I knew where his heart lay.
“What of it to you?” An ugly mix of chuckling and coughing followed this pecuniary demand.
I threw some coins down at him and some bread I had in my satchel. He horded both greedily and continued as if he had never stopped, turning his attention back to the sky, as if the answer was in the passing clouds:
“Oh yes, whens he first com he talks, tellin’ storees. Tellin’ storees ‘bout de causel he does. Says he was ‘nside de causel and he runs ‘way. He, he, he. Noones ben in de causel that I knowns of. I reckon it on all on ‘count of ‘im disappearin’ all dose days. Says he was in a bag and flewn up in the air wit’ da birds and bats, drew a winda. He, he, he. And he on da floor, strugglin’ an’ den da bag opens but he donts dare come out. He hears da laffin’ an’ he donts dares come out as its da laffin’ of witches he hears. Den he feels da bag whers his feets is lifts up in da airs so quick and he fallins out likes a loaf of bred on a stone table he, he, he. Den doubl’, toyl, and truble com at ‘em. An’ he so scareds and so quiets, he shakings, and der faces dey comes at ‘im, and ders mouths open with wickedness and full of de blacksness, and der he cans see all droo der mouths, downs to der feets, and der mouths dey just keep growins and growins and gets closers and closers, and he hears dem hissings…Den alls black an’ ‘appy. Oh he tells a storee dat one, he, he, he. Says he sees men climin’ up and down walls like spirders. Says he sees de woomen ol’ one day and yung da nex’. Says dey puts him in da bags every days and takes him outs every nights, every nights de sames laffings, ‘very nigh da sames blackness. But hes clever dis one, he, he, he. And he chews de bags dis one, he, he, he. Den he climin’ down walls like spirders too. Den he turn pas where before from winda he cants see nuthin’, and he jum’, nay, he flys like squirrals, he flys to tree bigger dan ten ‘ouses he did, and he climin’ down tree like squirrals, and he wit no shoos, no shurt, and da tree whites with snows. He run, run, run in da snow, wit da woolves, he run, run, run in da woods, not on da roads ‘ven. Dree days he wunder in da voods. Dree days he no sleep and no eat. Da woolves dey find ‘im, dey make circl’ around ‘im, dey ‘owl at the moon and it light on der teeth and dey glare in de dark, dey close ‘round ‘im, der tungs hangin’ out, all vet, pantin’ wid hunga, and he da boy can’t moov, and he sees de blackness in their mouves too, and his feet dey in da snow like ice, and den he raise his hunds in da air to covers his face, and da woolves dey disappear! And he see a bear black as night an’ he rippin’ and tearin’ da woolves like dey little squirrels, and he da boy he run and run but can’t feel ‘is feet an’ ‘is hands and he fall and he cover’d by rats, so many rats as he can’t see ‘is ‘ands an’ da snow it now black too from da rats, an’ it colds on ‘is backs, but den he st’nd up an’ da rats dey run like dey vas woolves he, he, he, an’ he de boy he run too like he vas woolves he, he, he, an’ he make it back, he, he, he. I reckon it on all on ‘count of ‘is feelin’ bad fo’ ‘is mama. She tooks off into da woods afta’ ‘im she does. She tooks off an’ da woolves dey gets her if I reckon. When hes come back his skins blue as skies, frozen he was, den turns whites as moooons, now darks, darks like ghost in da nights. An’ dens he stops talkin’, he, he, he. I reckon it on all on ‘count of da fingars an’ toos he loos to da snow, he, he, he. He don’ talks now, he, he, he. And no’s ones talks backs. Mark of da devil dey say, teef of de wolves dey say. I reckon it on all on ‘count ‘im won’t go to da lords house now, he, he, he. Won’t makes no change if he do, dey won’t let ‘im anysway, he, he, he. Da church close to ‘him, he, he, he, littl’ devil, he, he, he. Ids stays ‘way from dats one I is yous. I seen his teef, he, he, he, I seen his teef, he, he, he, he, he, he.”
With that he stopped; nothing I said or offered him altered his silence or the smirk dancing across his face. So I started to make my way to the inn. By now it was late and I saw my journey to the castle would be delayed till the following morning. His story did have an effect on me, not unlike a good ghost story, but it was nothing a drink would not dispense of. As my horse trotted through town, I received the distinct impression that I was no longer welcome in Bukovina. People turned away and murmured when I rode by, doors closed and smiles disappeared into the night. Not a single person neglected to cross themselves in my presence.
When I arrived at the inn my bags were by the front door with a note saying not to bother paying my bill. I tried the door but it was bolted. I yelled out to the innkeeper but got no response. I banged on the door for a quarter of an hour before resigning myself. I was the victim of superstition. Still, I did not in the least bit feel ill. Nor did I feel that their superstitions were infecting me. I tried another inn, but had the door shut in my face. There were only two inns in Bukovina. While I did not like the idea, I resigned myself to sleeping outside. Luckily I had implements with me for the making of a fire and a think fur coat. Even in the summer the mountains turned cold at night.
I found an ideal clearing on the outskirts of town, not far from the main road, and, after securing my horse to a tree, set about digging a small pit for a fire. I was exhausted from a long day and, with the fire burning beside me, once I lay my head down to rest it did not take me long to drift off into sleep.
I was awakened in the middle of the night by the howl of a wolf. I started at the sound and looked in every direction, my eyes readjusting to the pitch black that surrounded me. No moon lit the sky and the trees above me hid the stars. Again, another howl. I turned towards the direction I thought it came from, holding my breath. A thought occurred to me, and I turned towards where the fire had been. It was out. How?! But I dared not move. I stayed like this, on all fours, hands gripping the dirt beneath them, ready to spring and run at any instant. I focused on the tree in front of me, its rough surface appearing like hundreds of black scales. A slender form blocked it, only for an instant, the scales disappearing behind the silhouette. I held my breath again, though not by choice now, waiting. Now two silhouettes, from opposite directions, stole quickly in front of the tree. I heard rustling behind me but was afraid to look. The vagrant’s tales began to weigh on me, spinning lies and fears in my minds eye, as the darkness seemed to seep into my mind and hold sway. It painted pictures there, of gleaming, blood soaked fangs, and it howled with the wolves, ringing in my ears. It seeped into my nose and I could smell it now, a mixture of sweat and sewage and rotting carcasses. And then it dripped into my body, and I could feel the night air around me play tricks on every pore. I waited. Nothing. I blinked, tightly, opening my eyes and forcing myself to refocus. I woke up and saw daylight. Was it an illusion? Yes, it must have been.
The whole night I slept only in starts and fits, sweating, with such dreams as would scare even the heartiest of men. I dreamt I felt the heavy breath of wolves on my face, and heard them howl the night away. I dreamt the dark abysses in their mouths spread around me until I drowned in them. And rats, hundreds and hundreds of rats, shrieking and running over my body, through my clothes, on my face. My hands running over my body, trying desperately to throw them off, but always more and more coming. And I dreamt I saw the dark face of the boy, as if night had been given substance, his scar staring at me like a third eye, his hand reaching down towards my face, his mouth opening, and inside…sunlight. I opened my eyes to bright sunlight. It was not an illusion. I jumped up, frantically brushing imaginary rats from my body.
Once I had collected myself, I sighed and began to laugh. First quietly, but then I allowed it to grow, for all the world to hear. I laughed for nearly a quarter of an hour, leaning my head on a forearm I rested on a tree, before pulling myself together. For it had all been a dream, brought on no doubt by the lunatic stories that polluted my ears the day before. The only thing I was still curious about were some holes in my shirt that had not been there before, but those could easily have come from rolling on the ground, which was full of small rocks, in my fitful sleep. I made some breakfast, packed up my stuff – which I hid behind some rocks so as to lighten the load on my horse – and began the ride to the castle.
I arrived shortly after noon, the sun still high in the sky. The journey was uneventful and the mountains and woods were like any other the reader has surely seen. My horse did give me some trouble towards the end, no doubt because of the rocky terrain and the length and degree of the uphill. The castle that rose before me was most impressive in size, if not in condition. It seemed that this Count Dracula everyone was afraid of could not even keep his residence presentable, let alone hold an entire village in a state of terror. I knocked at the door and waited. Nothing happened. I walked around to either side of the castle, hoping to find another entrance. But in either direction I soon encountered the edge of a cliff. I should note, to be thorough, that I did not see any giant trees nearby.
When I returned to the main door, a large wooden affair, I found that it lay open before me. I thought this curious and knocked again. “Hello?” I yelled into the darkness and waited. Finally I heard feet shuffle slowly towards me, and then began to make out the form of a person, bright white and indistinct, growing larger with each step heard, as if light was slowly being let by the opening of a far-off portal. I did not fully see her till she was right in front of me. An elderly woman, she stood straight as a post, belying the wrinkles that pulled at her face and created folds of marble. She seemed of friendly disposition, and by her elegant dress I assumed her to be the lady of the house. Following the usual formalities, I explained I was here on business from Buda-Pesth, and was interested in talking with the Count. She apologized, and explained that the Count was away on business himself. I asked when he was expected back and she, after thinking for a second, apologized and said she did not know when he would return. “Some hermit,” I murmured in my head.
I explained that I had been referred here by some English associates of mine, to which she replied that several matching that description had come and gone over the years. She smiled knowingly, though I cannot say it was a smile that inspired trust. But what could these old people – for surely the Count was of like age – possibly do to English men, all in the prime of their lives? Then her smile relaxed and was friendly again, as if she could read my worries, and she asked if I would not come in for some tea and dinner. I was about to accept, for I was hungry for some friendly company and some warm food after my experiences of the previous night and day, when I heard a second voice – “Was I talking to the hired help now?” I thought – come from the depths of the house: “Who’s there?” My new friend turned her head towards the depths of the house and yelled, in a voice too strong for someone of her stature, “A visitor for the Count. We’re going to have dinner soon.” And with that she turned back towards me and smiled. But by then I had already changed my mind.
Perhaps it was her pallid countenance, or her strange bushy eyebrows that met at the bridge of her nose, but the thought of spending any more time with her – and perhaps also with her maid – in the bleak depths and recesses of the castle was not appealing. Also, I had an ulterior motive which the reader would surely appreciate: I knew if I left at that moment I might make the evening’s coach, and so return to Buda-Pesth before the close of the summer opera season two days hence.
I apologized and took my leave, walking back towards my horse as I heard the large door creak slowly shut behind me, sounding as if the entire building were being moved. Suddenly I stopped, remembering a question I had meant to ask. I turned my head towards the door, which seemed to stop in place before I uttered a syllable, and called out to the old lady. She did not reply nor show her face. I knew she must be behind the door so I raised my voice and asked the question, “Have you seen or heard anything of a little boy who claims to have visited the premises?” For what seemed like a long while, nothing happened. Then laughter. Laughter came from behind the door, a knowing, loud chuckle, as if she had heard the rumors many times, and about many people, and her feelings had been hardened against insult by experience. The laughter pealed and echoed through the castle, as if a hundred sisters had joined her, and the door began moving again, shaking the earth into a trance, until it shut completely, falling into its final resting place without any sound at all. But the laughter, I thought, trailed me all the way down the Borgo Pass.
The driver that stopped seemed surprised to see me, but was only too happy to get me as far away from Bukovina as possible. He gave me a low price for my horse, which I left tied to a tree for him to pick up on his return. So ended my little adventure.
I returned to Buda-Pesth much as I left it, in perfect mental and physical health, with a story that I trust the reader does not find too boring for the lack of anything spectacular or beyond the pale. I sit now at my desk, with a ticket from the closing night performance of The Magic Flute in my right pocket, sipping tea, as if I had never left Buda-Pesth at all. This is the full extent of my condition after retracing the steps of the Englishmen. I do not wish to influence your judgment, and so leave these facts for you to compare with the condition of our famous English visitors – for surely they could have encountered nothing worse in their travels than I did.
Dr. Seward’s Diary
20 August. –
As it appears in the novel