"He has all along, since his coming, been trying his power, slowly but surely. That big child-brain of his is working. Well for us, it is as yet, a child-brain. For had he dared, at the first, to attempt certain things he would long ago have been beyond our power. However, he means to succeed, and a man who has centuries before him can afford to wait and to go slow. Festina lente may well be his motto."
Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, MD, Ph.D., D. Lit.,
In Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Today is the day the solicitor from Exeter arrives. Harker. Harker Jonathan. Nay, nay. Jonathan Harker. Patronymic second. Must remember that. I had the Szygany gypsies deliver me some groceries and I have been tidying nonstop since sunset, but I am afraid the place is still something of a dreary old mess. There is just no getting around it. It is an old castle and I am an old monster, and it is not as if I have any help around here. I do have better things to do than don an apron and run around the castle with a feather duster. I am busy preparing for my move. Transylvania and Castle Dracula are the past, and not to be dwelled upon, not when the future beckons so imminently. Moving house is a tedious task under the best of circumstances, and moving to another country brings with it a whole new set of complications. And of course I have my own special needs. There are certain privacy considerations, several different estates, each involving different solicitors, and there is the shipping of all the earth boxes to consider.
I am Dracula. I move in shadow. My plans are complex and brilliant. I will not be hurried, and I will certainly not be criticized. Thus if Harker dares so much as to look askance at the state of my household, I shall tear his puny head from his neck! The thought of it brings on the rage! I will brook no insult! I will not!
And yet already I recover, I am calm, for I am the master of my own emotions, and nothing shall deter me from my audacious intention. Calmness. Breathing. I will not kill him. I will not kill him.
This is business. Simply business. It is an ordinary business transaction and there is nothing the least bit unearthly about it and I will not kill the solicitor. I can do this and he will live and I can go to England and blend in among the people in an atmosphere free of Transylvanian superstition. There are to be no suspicions raised during his visit, no fare for gossip engendered. My house, and all within it, shall be orderly, clean--reasonably clean, reasonably--and normal. I have vowed it. It shall be so.
Thank goodness he is not to arrive until almost midnight. There are still the late night snacks to prepare, and I would like at least to give the bathroom floors a good scrubbing.
I have made a decision. I shall simply seal off most of the castle, keeping young Harker completely away from most of its hallways and chambers. There is no way I am going to be able to make it all presentable in time. Just as well. Obviously I was going to have to seal a great deal of it anyway, tidy or not. It would not do to have him stumbling across the tombs, or to have my vampire wraith slave women get at him and rend him to pieces before we have had a chance to complete our little business.
I really should have started cleaning ages ago, for in truth I have had decades to prepare, but bah! Enough. There are limits to my patience. I, Dracula, Lord of the Night, can stand only so much of this menial work, no matter how glorious the ultimate end. I cannot be bothered! In any case it is a miracle that I have been able to accomplish as much as I have, all on my own. I sometimes think I ought to get some help in here again. But then I remember the last time I tried that.
What was it, thirty years ago? Yes. Autumn, I'm sure. First I tried the Szygany woman, an old hag named Glympy or something like that. No good. Did not work out at all. She was a kleptomaniac, for one thing, and she whistled incessantly. I was forced to dismiss her at once. The woman was lucky to leave the castle alive. I do not believe she even appreciated my generosity of spirit in literally letting her go. I have long since abandoned the hope of being appreciated, but that is another story entirely. Anyway, I did then arrange to have proper, professional maid service at the castle for a time. Nothing ostentatious, just a cleaning woman once a week. Dust the place up a bit, keep the books put back on the shelves and so on. A small extravagance, it hardly needs justification.
They sent a young thing, dark hair, terribly frightened. Elena, that was her name. Nice girl. Well, I killed her. Plain and simple. Couldn't help myself, there she was, teasing me with that "oh my god somebody help me" look on her face all the time, the little minx. Did she even finish her first day of work? I do not think so. I think I killed her at lunchtime.
I can laugh now, in my own special way, but at the time it created quite a stir. I still remember the crowds outside with their torches blazing and their pitchforks held high in the air. Who knew she was such a popular girl? I killed many and did much worse as a mortal, and no one dared make such a fuss. People quite lose their equanimity when there is the slightest hint of vampirism about the simplest macabre occurrence. Thank goodness for the wolves, or that could have been quite an unpleasant scene. Quite an unpleasant scene indeed.
And so it is just me, and has been ever since. I am capable, it is true, perfectly capable, and if there is one thing I never do it is whine, but it can nevertheless fairly be said that the vampire wraith slave women are no help whatsoever domestically. As soon as there is any housework to be done it is all circling mists in the moonlight and they're gone. They are really not good for much of anything, it has to be said plainly and there it is. I will write more of them at a later time. But that is it, that is my harem, as they call it in the Arab lands, at least for now. God help me!
It is not just the cleaning, either. I will have to look after Harker personally the whole time as well. He is going to need to be fed, and that means I will be on chef duty while he remains here as my guest. Setting tables, cooking meals, cleaning up, making his bed. Yet I will do no laundry. I will not! He can stink to high heaven for all I care, I have my limits! Yet already the rage passes and I am calm. I will do the laundry as well. I will do it. I will do it for it is nothing to me and it serves my greater glory.
At any rate, at least I can work quickly, and when he is not looking, so he will believe I have a full battalion of servants. As far as he knows it will be my servants who are cooking, who are cleaning, who are laundering and tending to his needs, and he will never see these servants but he will believe in them because he will expect them to exist. This is a matter of pride, a matter of decency. I am sure he would think it quite strange for a man of my stature not to have this sort of help, so I shall have to play the part; I shall have to play all the parts! Anyway, he would not understand, and he might even pity me. Me, Dracula, of the proud Szekelys, in whose veins flows the blood of Attila! The thought of it fills me with the rage! I will not brook the insult! I will not brook it! He can make his own dinner! I, Dracula, have better things to do!
And now I am calm, I have recovered. All is well and he is on his way and he will come and he will live unless I kill him which I will not for I choose not to. I, Dracula, am in perfect possession of myself. I am the picture of grace and serenity. This one is all business. All business, and no blood.
When I get to London, that is when I will be able to unwind a bit, let off a little steam. I will blend into my new environment and will find natural camouflage in the urban setting, where the citizens are not superstitious and all sorts of people with all manner of peculiar habits are tolerated without rash accusations of vampirism. It shall be a bloodbath! That is to say, a discreet, shadowy sort of bloodbath during which I will raise no suspicions whatsoever that there might be an otherworldly undead demon of the night in town who has been responsible for the mysterious inexplicable mayhem.
London. England. In truth I can hardly wait, although I am accustomed to taking my time. An immortal can afford to take things slowly. I fear nothing, yet I move deliberately, one cautious step at a time. It is when we rush that we make our mistakes. There will be no mistakes in my grand plan, and no rushing. Festina lente, that's my motto.
It has been a long time since I have been so excited about anything. London will be a nice change of pace, that will suit me just fine. And how long overdue! There is not a house left in eastern Europe that isn't covered in garlic and crosses, the superstitious simpletons. Even the most stubbornly uneducated peasant barricades himself indoors at sunset and will invite no stranger inside. One thing I cannot abide is entering a household without an invitation, and believe me I have tried everything in this town. "I just need to use the toilet, please, I beseech you." "A drop of ale for a weary traveler, please ma'am." "Looks like you've got termites, sir, better let me come in and give the place a good once over. I'm a professional sir. Trust me damn you." It has been years since any of these ploys has worked.
Indeed each time I leave the castle in search of victims, likely as not I will encounter only people draped from head to toe in religious ornamentation and clutching crumbling handfuls of the Sacred Host. Honestly, if I go one more night on dog's blood I shall go quite mad.
And so finally it is really happening, at last, after such long and careful planning. I have accumulated the wealth, acquired the properties, studied the language, the history, the customs. I am ready, oh yes; I am more than ready. It may take me a short while to blend in completely, but in six months' time I will wager I shall be able to walk into any pub in London without anybody batting an eye. I will stroll right in as casually as you please, nod my dangerous approval at the local women, feeling the heat of their blushing as I pass by. The men will instinctively defer, quite naturally recognizing my innate superiority, it is true, but they shall not think "vampire." They shall not think "my god, what on earth is this supernatural and obviously evil undead being doing here in our pub?" Nay.
Quite the contrary. They will envy me, if anything. Admire me. Embrace me. They will want to associate with me, to be my friends. But I shall remain largely aloof and mysterious, staying mainly to the shadows. I may take only a select few as my social acquaintances, those who deserve more than my indifference by virtue of their outstanding intellects, their worldly knowledge, their exquisite finery. I have studied their dialects and their ways, and I shall be able to enter the social halls, the centers of commerce, the opera houses and the museums, as easily as I will also lurk in the shadows, in each place comfortable, in each interaction masterful. I shall enter a place and control it, instantly, suavely surveying the room and asserting my superior charm and guile on all within my considerable range.
A normal man in all appearance. An obviously superior, that is, yet still in the main apparently mortal and non-threatening being to the casual observer. That is the thing for the vampire in the modern age here in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Oh, it was fine in the old days to play on the superstitions, to establish a grand and terrifying presence, to be the vampire terrible of their nightmares. One could indulge in a certain reputation for the past few centuries, and indeed thrive on it. Those were the days, indeed, those were the days. But you will not catch me getting all sentimental over it. Not I, not I. I perhaps suffer from a certain intangible fin de siecle malaise, but I sit not idly by and let it consume me. These waters are fished out, so to speak, and it is a mark of my cunning that I am able to perceive the wind changes and adapt so easily.
Do not suppose that it is easy to be an immortal! One can easily get comfortable in one's own habits, only to look up one century and find that the feudal system has been supplanted by a more dynamic mercantilism. These sorts of changes can affect one's life style quite profoundly. I have seen more than one of my kind destroyed because he failed to understand the significance of minor changes that belied a larger evolutionary trend. Not I. I am a survivor, and here today I can see where these winds are blowing easily enough. To the teeming masses of sweat and blood of the industrial city! To the whirl and rush of humanity!
I will blend in, and move among them, feeding silently, slipping in and out of the darkness. With their scientific minds they would be unable to believe there was a vampire among them if I changed into a bat as they watched and danced on their dressing tables. They will stand no chance against me, for they can have no idea of what awaits them. They cannot prepare for that which they cannot imagine. Life will indeed be a feast for me, and there will be nothing to stop me. And thus I can set my grander plan into motion.
In a country like England, I will be able, over time, to create a vast number of undead minions, unnoticed by humans until it is far too late for them to stop our inevitable tipping of the scales in our evolutionary favor. In a matter of a few years I will have greatly expanded the numbers of my kind, and we shall have our day of dominance. I have been too long from the throne! No longer hunted and scorned, vampires will rule. We will rule from the netherworld, establishing a reign of terror such as has never been seen before. The humans will at first believe there to be some new plague, and they shall be right. My plague, the plague of Dracula, will savage their land. And we shall feast--oh, how we will feast. Yes, this is the dawn of a new age for the Dracula legend; I shall take the reins of history and write the future in blood!
And tonight it all really begins. I've got Harker's dinner menu squared away and his room all made up. The toilet is clean, the pantry is full, and there is plenty of coffee and fresh baked goods. I have his stay all planned out, and all my little excuses ready. There are a certain few aspects of my behavior that may strike the young solicitor as peculiar. I shall explain my absence during the daylight hours by saying I have errands to run. My failure to eat meals with him? I have already eaten, and I never snack. My team of obedient servants? They are efficient, and terribly bashful. That should cover it, really. I do not see what could go wrong. A tidy little plan.
I have instructed Harker to stay at the Golden Krone Hotel on his way to my castle. The accommodations are clean, and quite reasonable, and the proprietors are well known to me and under my protection, as they have been for some time. I have reserved his place on the transport that will take him to me. Many have been my preparations in anticipation of this time. I have gone so far as to leave a note for him at the hotel, in which I wished to emphasize that he was not entering my castle as victim of a bloodthirsty demon, but as friend, yes, friend of Dracula. And so I wrote to him thus:
"My friend. Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.
"Your friend, Dracula."
Note how I repeated the word "friend" twice in the note, once to show that he was my friend, and once to show that I was his, that we had a friendship and that it was reciprocal, just to make sure he understood the point that I was in no way going to kill him upon his arrival in my home. Rather, ours would be a friendly visit with no killing. Further, I emphasized that happiness and enjoyment would be the characteristic hallmarks of his journey, rather than terror and despair. I hope I did not overdo it with excess friendliness and achieve unintentionally an alienating effect. Surely this is unlikely if not impossible, for Dracula is the master of the congenial note.
Well, the time has gotten short already. I think I will just make sure there are some clean hand towels in the guest washroom, and then I had better go hitch up the calèche. Harker should be at the Borgo Pass in half an hour!
Well, I think it has gone all right so far, although it was a bit of a rough start. These damned superstitious townspeople had him half frightened to death by the time I even arrived, which did not make it any easier to pull off the Mr. Normal routine, I can tell you. I overheard the driver as I arrived, trying to persuade Harker to go on to Bukovina. Hell! A man is, what, two minutes late and they are ready to bolt like rabbits. How dare they? Honestly, though I purposely smiled at them I nearly broke all their sniveling necks right then and there, the rage did boil up in me so.
"You are early tonight, my friend," I said to the driver, maintaining full composure and giving him a meaningful stare. He literally stammered out his excuse, saying that Harker was in a hurry. Just pitiful. I let him know he wasn't fooling anybody, least of all Dracula, king of those who cannot be fooled.
"That is why, I suppose, you practically begged him to go on to Bukovina," I slyly noted. I believe I raised an eyebrow at this point and widened my eyes at him intensely. He looked down and made so as to shrug his shoulders. "You cannot deceive me, my friend; I know too much, and my horses are swift."
Then they all started in with their mumbled commentary, their "Denn die Todten reiten schnell" and so forth. As if I wasn't going to hear them. What were they thinking? I took Harker and his luggage and we were off, though I was thoroughly disgusted with the entire experience. They were all crossing themselves as I drove away, too--don't think I didn't notice. But I controlled my fury at once in order to preserve my careful plan, for I am Dracula, and I am master of myself as well as of ordinary men.
In my disguise as the calèche driver (in which I wear a false brown beard and privately refer to myself as "Mack," but tell no one of the name), I offered Harker a flask of slivovitz--get this--in German. He will never know it was me, I am quite sure, for when I speak with him as myself I shall use only English. The German-speaking driver. Brilliant. "The night is chill, mein Herr, and my master the Count bade me take all care of you." Absolutely brilliant. These are the small touches that separate true genius from the hacks. What excellent servants has Dracula, eh? He is one of my best men, Mack is. I kept a very straight face the whole time, of course. Incidentally, he drank about half the slivovitz by the time we reached the castle; I was appalled. I do not know what kept him on his feet.
Anyway, so far so good, but then of course right away it was the wolves and their howling. I can do nothing to stop them, of course, unless they are right in front of me, but they can sense my passing and it sets them off every time. I am sure Harker noticed it. I had a peek at him and the stupid sod was practically soiling himself. Sitting there sweating, looking around wildly, gulping slivovitz like a man possessed. Not much of one for the stiff upper lip, this one. Well, he does not know the country, so he will probably write it off as a peculiar feature of the local fauna. He may chalk it all up to his drunken imagination for all I know!
The other thing that was possibly not such a great idea though was stopping off at each of the blue treasure flames, but after all it was St. George's Eve--I could not resist! On this one night of the year--and my last St. George's Eve in Transylvania for the foreseeable future--evil spirits reign and the blue flames appear, showing the location of treasures hidden from marauding Wallachians, Saxons, and Turks. Ordinary people would be terrified to venture out for these treasures, but for one such as myself, I can tell you it is the most fantastic of holidays! Shall I, Dracula, deny myself the pleasure of my favorite night of the year, for fear of disturbing some mortal solicitor whom I have summoned to do my own bidding? The very thought fills me with rage. I do as I please! I love St. George's Eve!
I suppose it is true that it could be considered somewhat poor planning, from an "acting normal" perspective, to invite Harker to arrive on the one night that I am compelled to exult in the celebration of all things evil and go mining the treasure flames. I could have invited him the night before, or the night after, or any other night, and then it would not have been an issue. Also, the townspeople are always highly edgy on St. George's Eve, whereas on another night they would have been less likely to warn him off showing up at the castle at all. Well, too bad! I do things a certain way! I have a certain style. I have certain preferences. It is good luck to begin a major undertaking on St. George's Eve, and anyway it is the way I like to do it, the way I have chosen. If anyone cares to question it they can answer to me if they dare.
Anyway, I can explain it to him, if he asks; it is a simple enough story. "Mack" likes to go after his treasures, the locations of which are indicated only on St. George's Eve by supernatural blue flames. It is his hobby. What's the big deal?
Unfortunately, while I was out retrieving one of the treasures, the wolves went and circled the calèche. I suddenly hear this pounding, and it is Harker hammering on the walls and he's yelling for me in slurred panic. I expected more backbone from the man, I really did. What did he think was going to happen? One of the wolves was suddenly going to sprout opposable thumbs and open the door to the calèche? Honestly. Anyway back I go, feeling a bit of wrath that I am being summoned like a servant I can tell you, and I shoo away the wolves and we get on with it. The whole scene seemed to have given Harker quite a bad case of the heebie-jeebies. I am just glad he did not puke all over the calèche, because there is nobody on clean-up duty around here other than yours truly.
I did not think anything of scattering the wolves until after I had done it, and then I realized that your average calèche driver probably cannot do that sort of thing. It is in fact rather a special talent, wolf scattering. Oops. The hell with it. If he asks me, I shall just shrug. "Boy, that Mack," I shall say. "He is a good man. German, you know. From sound Teutonic stock. He has himself a way with the wolves, it is true. Sounds to me like you were lucky, that's all. And now let us speak of something else." That ought to do it, really.
Anyway, of course the first really tricky bit was disappearing out of the calèche and reappearing shortly thereafter as myself to invite him in, without raising questions about why I, as "Mack," did not just let him in straight away. It might have seemed somewhat strange to Harker to have been left standing outside without a word, especially since I had made such a point of the driver having been bade to take all care of him. I suppose I could have just let him in, but it might have seemed presumptuous of a calèche driver to do so, and in any case I wanted to invite him in properly. I had rehearsed the whole scene in my mind many times, sorting out exactly what to say to get that air of noble grandness while at the same time displaying a welcoming beneficence.
I had prepared his dinner in advance but had to heat it up in the oven, and make sure there was a good fire blazing in the dining room hearth and in his bedroom. I also had to make sure I looked all right, after a hasty change of clothes and whatnot. I ran a comb through my hair, smoothed out my moustache, and set the lighting down low so my pale skin would not seem so, well, deathly. But I really have no idea what I looked like, which is always a problem and will continue to be. What I wouldn't give to be able to look into a mirror sometimes. I tell you it gives me the rage at times, the rage! It is not a matter of vanity, I assure and command you, but if I am going to blend in it would certainly help to have some idea what it is that people see when they look at me.
I am, however, quite a suave old devil and I know I can get by a long way on that alone, even if the occasional hair is out of place. It would not do to have anything stuck between my teeth, but god knows I floss assiduously and always keep a discreet toothpick handy.
At any rate, I opened the front gate after not much of a delay (although the whinging simp looked as if he had been waiting for ages--he looked put upon, really, he really did. Put upon! The rage!). "Welcome to my house," is what I had decided upon. "Enter freely and of your own will!" Which I thought sounded maybe a little bit vaguely foreboding if you thought of it a certain way, and sort of defensive, but still, it had an air of magnanimity about it. I had thought of just "Come on in!" but decided it lacked dignity. I wanted to seem normal, after all, not common.
We shook hands, and this was a critical moment really because it would tell whether he had recognized me from the calèche and whether I was in general passing for normal. I had tried warming my hands over the fire for a few minutes before answering the door, but I am afraid that it is quite a lost cause; they were certainly very cold again by the time I greeted him. It is also always tough to get the firmness of the handshake just right. I am sure that is true for everybody, really, but I daresay it is a special challenge when you've got the strength of twenty men. I tried to deflect his attention from his sensory perceptions with a hearty "Welcome to my house" (again, I know) and I added: "Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring." It seems everything I say comes out a little bit ominous somehow, and the harder I try to make it seem simple and warm the more it comes out sounding like "Hope nothing extremely horrible happens to you although it probably will." Grrrrrrrr!
I continued, outwardly unperturbed I am sure, inviting him to make his toilet before eating. As he went to do so, I took the dinner out of the oven and laid it all out on the table, moving with preternatural swiftness. Even so, I barely had finished by the time he walked into the dining room; yet upon entering he found me looking as casual as you please, leaning against the stonework, as if the servants had just left the building. I saw him looking around for the staff, and my fists began to clench with rage, but fortunately he said nothing. For my part, I maintained my indifferent and confident air.
I had prepared a nice roasted chicken, with just some rosemary, parsley, sage, salt and pepper, and a little lemon. The recipe really called for garlic as well, but as much as I wanted to do it right, I cannot and will not abide garlic. A shame, really, but enough! I cannot abide it! I also made a salad with fresh greens and some robust tomatoes--really unusual for this time of year in these parts, although Harker just took it all for granted, the posh brat--and provided some Gruyere and a bottle of old Tokay, of which he had four glasses, at least. Good thing I stocked up on plenty of wine and spirits; this Harker is looking more and more like a dissolute little sponge.
We sat by the fire awhile and I offered him a cigar, which he took and smoked. As he sat there I would swear he was examining my physiognomy, the lout. I saw him practically staring at my hands, for instance, which is when I realized I still had my nails done long and cut to a point. It was a "claw" effect, which had served me quite well in frightening the local peasants, and I had completely forgotten to trim them to a style more in keeping with the English gentry. Damn it all! I turned my hands over quickly but then the bastard started staring at my palms, which are I am afraid distinctly hairy. God knows what he thought about that, given what they tell schoolboys over there in England. I do not even want to think about it.
I leaned in to say something--anything--to change the unspoken subject, and was appalled when he fully and actually shuddered, unable to disguise his nausea. Shuddered! As if my breath was rank! He did not smell like a rose himself, I can tell you, after his journey and his drinking and his cigars. This is what passes for courtesy in this day and age? This is how a guest behaves himself? Shuddering in nausea at one's host? I've had worse hosts than me in my time, I can tell you, and what I have done when confronted with shuddering nausea is, very simply, to control myself. I will look the other way, or I will casually withdraw, or in any case I will choke it back, damn it all, and force an amiable expression besides. Who does he think he is, shuddering with nausea? Some sort of little princess? In my day men would sit around with each other in the midst of absolutely alarming piles of unhygienic decay of all kinds and not a one of them would think of shuddering with nausea. Men were men in those days.
And him sitting there, stinking up the place with his damned cigar, which I only offered to him out of politeness. If anyone was going to be shuddering with nausea it should have been me. I have a very sensitive nose, far more sensitive than any mortal's, and I know better than to go lighting up in people's houses every time somebody offers a token courtesy stogie. The bastard. The rude, selfish bastard.
Naturally I maintained my composure, however. I drew back and smiled casually, fully aware that I was giving him quite a good glimpse of my long, sharp teeth. I am incorrigible I know, but I could not help myself. The nerve of these dainty, fussy Englishmen and their cigars and their nausea. I nearly tore into him right then and there and drained his sorry life right out of his veins, I swear, and to hell with the estate at Purfleet. I need nothing, nothing more than my own dignity. He should not act as if he were immortal. He is not. I am. I am immortal and he is perfectly murderable, and he ought to act with more humility in acknowledgement of this truth. Again however I mastered my rage, for these petty matters are nothing to me actually and I rose above it instantly without even trying. It is the principle of it, that is all, but let us now move on.
During the uncomfortable lull in the conversation that followed, we sat and simply listened to the sounds of the evening outside. I am comfortable with long silences even in company; many are not. The wolves were baying and howling in the woods around the castle--a gorgeous sound, but I could see that Harker was becoming uneasy. Therefore I tried again to stimulate some conversation with a rather poetic comment about the "beautiful music of those children of the night," but it went right over his head. No appreciation of it whatsoever. Some people have the capacity for poetry and others do not. In this matter Harker is clearly a philistine. One cannot say that I did not try, did not do my part to elevate the conversation to the level of art, where our higher selves may shine forth. It takes two to have a conversation, however, and Harker was simply not up to meeting my bon mots with any of his own. If there was any doubt about his churlishness, it has been quite entirely erased. He is a troglodyte. I have invited a troglodyte into my home. These business arrangements and their stilted socializing, it is all such a dry and dismal affair, no matter how one dresses it up. Harker not only has little in the way of imagination, he has still less in the way of manners, that much is eminently clear. Disappointing, but there you are.
I sent him to bed, and went off to clear and wash the dishes and package up the leftovers. He has no idea of the trouble I have to go through to see to his comfort here. Even if he did, I doubt he would appreciate it or show the least bit of gratitude. Indeed that is what enrages me the most. I must keep in mind at all times the master plan. England, anonymity, blood, freedom. That is the only way to bear these indignities. Harker is but the means to an end, and a glorious end it will be for me and my kind. My reward will come in time and when it does it will be rich. Rich! Harker is nothing but a fleeting moment of discomfort to me in the grand scheme, and indeed I must revel in these inconveniences and menial tasks, for they are simply the building blocks of my empire, which even now approaches inexorably like the return of the tide itself. All the comfort he experiences at my hands now will return many fold in hails of darkest laughter and suffering upon his kin for ages hence.
Still, try keeping all that in mind as you're scrubbing chicken grease off pans for half an hour at a time. It is not easy, I will tell you here and now. Anyway, I did tell him to sleep as late as he wished, that I would need to be away during most of the day, but just to reinforce the concept in his mind I thought I would write him some note of explanation. I did not wish him to become suspicious of my mysterious absences during the day, and put a great deal of thought into what my explanation might be. I tried several notes, some of them quite lengthy, but none seeming to explain sufficiently without getting defensive.
For example, the first note went as follows:
"Harker Jonathan, my dearest friend. As you will note, I am not anywhere around the castle during the day today, a fact which may indeed become noticeable as rather a pattern in the days and weeks to come. I shall reappear as the sun goes down, again, something that is likely to happen on quite a frequent, repeated basis during your tenure here. Perhaps you may think this strange. It is not. It is in no way strange and I shall not brook the suggestion. Remember, you are a guest in this house and you are not to question me! You are not to question my ways! I come and go as I please!"
At this point I abandoned the first note. It had become angry and defensive, I thought, although justifiably so. In any case, I did try again, on a clean sheet of paper.
"My friend Harker, dear man. Yes, as you can see, I am not there. It is daytime and I have gone somewhere else, which prevents me from being there, and you should simply amuse yourself in my absence or do your work and not wait for me by any means. I will be back by early evening and will see you at that time. This is perfectly normal for me and should in no way cause you to think suspiciously. It is what I do and you will no doubt be seeing more of it. You might even start to think I was some sort of nosferatu or something! Ha! But of course it is not so and you must not think it. No, I simply have errands, many errands, which I routinely like to run during the day, returning at evening time. It might be the post office one day, for example, and grocery shopping another, except that of course my servants do those things for me, so those are not good examples."
Again, I tore this one up at that point, as it was getting a bit too complicated. I tried a third time.
"Dear my good friend Mr. Jonathan. I offer you my sincerest apologies at not being there at your service upon your awakening and throughout the rest of the daylight hours. Please go about your own business with no regard for my whereabouts. I shall return at evening time. As you will come to know, these are my habits. I wish you to understand that there is nothing the least bit strange about this sort of routine around here and that thinking otherwise is not only pointless, it is dangerous. I tell you this only out of deepest concern for you as my friend. In Transylvania, the boyar keep such hours all the time, for we have things to do during the day which can be done at no other time, and these are aristocratic things with which I shall not bore you, although I could, if I wanted to, detail every coming and going to your most supreme satisfaction. That would not be a problem, for these things really do occur and must be attended to each and every day and this is normal. I urge you in strongest terms not even to think about it."
No good, no good, it ended in the bin with the others. It is none of his business why I do as I do. None of his business! Dracula need not make excuses for his comings and goings! It is an outrage, and were I to cater to such lowly demands it would only result in a grim strain upon our relationship and more likely than not an agonizing death for young Harker Jonathan. In the end, I settled on the following:
"I have to be absent for a while. Do not wait for me. D."
With that I placed the note on the table and retired here to my chambers in the tomb. The whole episode has put me off my mood. I had still to prepare him a cold breakfast so it would be ready for him when he awoke, just some bread and a bit of cereal and cheese, really. I also thought to prepare some hot coffee, which I placed on the hearth to keep warm for him when he rises tomorrow. For lunch, he is on his own! So swears Dracula!
Last night Harker and I had a chance to speak more at our leisure. I wished primarily to make him feel welcome, and yet to make clear the limits of his freedom within the castle. This was only politeness on my part. Given that much of my home would be off limits to him, it would be better to tell him so in advance, rather than have him suddenly come upon some locked door. Here my noble bearing would serve me well, as I am able to intone these sorts of things and command the kind of respect that ensures obedience. A lesser man would no doubt come off as rude setting such rules. With me, I am sure that it only increases the man's appreciation of the generosities I have shown him in light of the intensely private and complex nature of the rest of my life. He will feel humble in my presence quite naturally and will wish to have as many restrictions on his behavior as possible. It will make him feel more comfortable. His first inclination will be a subliminal wish to kneel before me, or to hide. Indeed my magnanimity in letting him out of his room might possibly even overwhelm him. This is the way of things and it will suit me just fine.
Be that as it may, I had other designs for our conversation as well. I hoped to learn more of London, and to improve my natural command of the English language; thus, upon finding him in the evening nosing through my things in the library, I implored him to make even the most minor corrections.
"I am glad you found your way in here," I lied, for although I had invited him to do so I felt unmistakably that he was a nosy and intrusive individual just the same. "I am sure there is much that will interest you. These companions," I continued, laying my hands grandly on some of the books, indicating my almost avuncular affection for all things literary, "have been good friends to me, and for some years past, ever since I had the idea of going to London, have given me many, many hours of pleasure. Through them I have come to know your great England, and to know her is to love her. I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, erm, its natural, perfectly normal death, and all that makes it what it is. But alas! As yet I only know your tongue through books. To you, my friend, I look that I know it to speak."
Here at first he refused, protesting, telling me that my English was already perfect. The patronizing buffoon. I had to implore him in most serious tones that what I had in mind was not mere crude mimicry of the basic outlines of the language, but its total mastery. In order to move about in seamless shadowy comfort in England without attracting the least bit of attention to myself I shall have to speak effortlessly, as a native in every idiomatic nuance. Still he resisted and so I insisted some more.
"I thank you, my friend, for your all too-flattering estimate, but yet I fear that I am but a little way on the road I would travel. True, I know the grammar and the words, but yet I know not how to speak them." Had he agreed with me here, I would have killed him. For I was exaggerating, for humility's sake. He did not agree. This also angered me. Out of laziness and an unwillingness to assist me, he told me I already spoke excellently.
"Not so," I began, clenching my teeth slightly. "Well, I know that, did I move and speak in your London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me. Here I am noble. I am a boyar. The common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care not for. I am content if I am like the rest, so that no man stops if he sees me, or pauses in his speaking if he hears my words, 'Ha, ha! A stranger!'"
In fact I am quite sensitive about this matter. I will not brook people laughing at me, nor pointing to me as stranger. Of all the phrases in all the languages in the world, "Ha ha! A stranger!" has to be just about my least favorite. It grates on my nerves. People can be so cruel. However, I did not elaborate greatly on the point, for surely it, like all subtleties, would have been lost on him. I merely continued.
"I have been so long master that I would be master still, or at least that none other should be master of me. You come to me not alone but as agent of my friend Peter Hawkins, of Exeter, to tell me all about my new estate in London. You shall, I trust, rest here with me a while, so that by our talking I may learn the English intonation. And I would that you tell me when I make error, even of the smallest, in my speaking."
Finally he agreed, and eventually began correcting me on an endless variety of piddling details. "It is not, strictly speaking, 'due to,' Count, but 'because of' you see. I hate even to mention it." Or "Hardly worth mentioning, but it really should be 'different from' instead of 'different than'." Or "Oh dear, I'm afraid you have picked up a little of the American usage here. What have you been reading?" He became more and more eager about the whole thing, frankly, and nearly put me off the conversation entirely. Some of these things would make no difference whatsoever to me in practical terms. I know I asked for it but he needn't have been so smug about it. After all, what are his qualifications? Has he done a master's degree? Have I seen his marks? I honestly do not know which was more irritating, having him correct me or having him refuse to.
I think he just vexes me either way, let us face it. I am frequently flushed with wrath while I am speaking with him, but I am quite cagey about it and am pretty sure he does not notice. From all outward appearances, I have been the perfect picture of restraint, I really have. I did need to change the subject after a short while.
It came time for me to warn him about his limits within the castle, saying "You may go anywhere you wish in the castle, except where the doors are locked, where of course you will not wish to go. There is reason that all things are as they are, and did you see with my eyes and know with my knowledge, you would perhaps better understand." This was enough explanation for him, surely. I knew from my note-writing of the previous evening that to go much further was only to invite trouble.
"We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things. Nay, from what you have told me of your experiences already, you know something of what strange things there may be." OK, enough, enough. I was beginning to get carried away. He began to ask all manner of intrusive questions, most of which I deigned to answer, but to which some I sheered off the subject or pretended not to understand. I did give him the lowdown on the blue treasure flames. He specifically asked why my driver had stopped at them. I told him, well, Mack, he likes his treasures, he sees the flames, he goes, that is all there is to it. Still he pressed me on why. I indulged him, for I was in a congenial mood and it suited me to speak at some length.
"That treasure has been hidden in the region through which you came last night, there can be but little doubt. For it was the ground fought over for centuries by the Wallachian, the Saxon, and the Turk." Did I not know it most personally! "Why, there is hardly a foot of soil in all this region that has not been enriched by the blood of men, patriots or invaders. In the old days there were stirring times, when the Austrian and the Hungarian came up in hordes, and the patriots went out to meet them, men and women, the aged and the children too, and waited their coming on the rocks above the passes, that they might sweep destruction on them with their artificial avalanches. When the invader was triumphant he found but little, for whatever there was had been sheltered in the friendly soil."
He wanted then to know how such treasure could have remained so long undiscovered. I had an answer for him.
"Because your peasant is at heart a coward and a fool!" I snapped. And yet already I recovered, regaining my calm. "Those flames only appear on one night, and on that night no man of this land will, if he can help it, stir without his doors. And, dear sir, even if he did he would not know what to do. Why, even the peasant that you tell me of who marked the place of the flame would not know where to look in daylight even for his own work. Even you would not, I dare be sworn, be able to find these places again?"
He agreed he would not, which was good, for I had been annoyed enough already for one evening. I stopped myself here and changed the subject once more, to England.
He told me all about the estate, and showed me a few photographs.
"The estate is called Carfax," he told me, which I already knew, "no doubt a corruption of the old Quatre Face, as the house is four sided, agreeing with the cardinal points of the compass. It contains in all some twenty acres, quite surrounded by the solid stone wall above mentioned." Perfect. Perfect. "There are many trees on it, which make it in places gloomy"--gloomy!--"and there is a deep, dark-looking pond or small lake, evidently fed by some springs, as the water is clear and flows away in a fair-sized stream. The house is very large and of all periods back, I should say, to mediaeval times, for one part is of stone immensely thick, with only a few windows high up and heavily barred with iron. It looks like part of a keep, and is close to an old chapel or church. I could not enter it, as I had not the key of the door leading to it from the house, but I have taken with my Kodak views of it from various points." He showed me the photographs. Amazing, the technology these days. Really remarkable.
"The house had been added to," he continued, "but in a very straggling way, and I can only guess at the amount of ground it covers, which must be very great. There are but few houses close at hand, one being a very large house only recently added to and formed into a private lunatic asylum. It is not, however, visible from the grounds."
I was delighted. I think I am quite lucky to have found such an ideal spot in the very heart of London. It strikes me that the asylum may prove useful as well. With any luck I may find some sort of suitable madman to serve as my abject minion. The insane are often quite useful in a variety of unpredictable ways, and their minds are exceedingly easy to control. They are used to hearing and obeying voices in their heads anyway, so all I have to do is step in and start making suggestions. Often one can manipulate their particular psychoses in surprisingly convenient ways that mesh well with one's immediate needs. They may even become idolatrous and servile upon encountering the vampire. Who knows what this asylum may yield? A life-consuming mad half-scholar with dreams of immortality, or just another crazy bugger who thinks his pants are made of fish? Well, one never knows until one tries. We shall see!
"I am glad that it is old and big," I told him, for I was in a sharing mood. "I myself am of an old family, and to live in a new house would kill me." Well, it might. It would certainly mortify me. I was merely playing upon his sympathies. "A house cannot be made habitable in a day, and after all, how few days go to make up a century. Erm, not that I'm saying I have centuries before me. Certainly one does not normally count on that much time ahead, eh? Not at my age, eh? I meant it poetically, of course. Anyway, I rejoice also that there is a chapel of old times. We Transylvanian nobles love not to think that our bones may lie amongst the common dead. I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine and sparkling waters which please the young and gay. I am no longer young, nor am I gay, and my heart, through weary years of mourning over the dead, is not attuned to mirth. Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken. The shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements. I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may." Here I affected a wistful look, and am certain he perceived in me the soul of an artist.
After we had conversed to my satisfaction and I was sure if we continued another minute I would kill him, I excused myself, saying I had some personal matters to which to attend, and asked him to put his papers all in order. This ruse gave me time to prepare his dinner in secret while he amused himself in the library. Veal, this time, in a Madeira sauce with tomato and shallots. I had wanted to try this recipe for ages but had not had an excuse. I think it came out most excellently (again, allowing for the unfortunate lack of garlic, which I cannot abide--it is amazing how hard it is sometimes to find decent recipes that do not call for the foul substance). Anyway, I am developing into a fine cook, as I knew I would, and the veal came out to perfection; I wish I could taste it. I am not complaining. Dracula bears all things stoically.
When it was all ready and laid out, I went back and found him once again looking through my books in the library. As I have suspected and said, he is a nosy little bastard. It seems he stumbled upon my England map, the one with all my properties marked on it with little circles. This was most unfortunate. I should not have left that thing laying around like that, for I wished no one to see my acquisition plan in its entirety. I may have to kill Mr. Inquisitive Pants after all. But there is plenty of time to decide all that. I made no mention of it, not even a sarcastic aside about how he should help himself to any of my belongings at any time. Instead I simply told him that "I had been informed" that his dinner was ready and invited him to come and eat. I may spit in his food next time. I may step on his steak and cover it in gravy.
After dinner he stank up the place once again with one of my cigars and I decided to torture him by asking him questions on every conceivable subject all night long. I grilled him at length about politics and history, and then started in on cricket and snooker, pushing him for every detail, every strategy, every situational position. As he made a motion at one point to stand and go to his room, I insisted he tell me all he knew about horse racing. When he protested that he knew nothing about it, I heartily said "Neither do I!" and slapped him hard on the back. Then I asked him about the sciences, urging him for no particular reason to relay all he could remember about ornithology. I asked him about electric light bulbs, Russian literature, and insurance policies. His eyes were becoming sunken, his cheeks drawn, and he yawned incessantly (and rather ostentatiously I thought). Still I did not relent, pressing him for details on Byzantine architecture, cabinet making, and pastries. I probed him for his thoughts on Spanish dance music, police brutality, and which parts of the body did he think had the funniest names. Then when morning came I feigned surprise and made a hasty exit. You should have seen the look on his face. I am a devil, truly.