Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Fred Saberhagen & James V. Heart

“Number three?” Mina inquired softly.

She received no verbal reply, but there was really no need for one. The answer was plain in Lucy’s face, and reflected in the joy demonstrated in turn by the latest arrival, as she hurried across the crowded floor to meet him.


On that same night, in the remote Carpathians, the young solicitor Jonathan Harker was entering the library of Castle Dracula. There he found the count lying on the sofa, reading (“of all things,” as Harker later commented in his journal) an English Bradshaw’s guide, a compendium of schedules for the railway system and other means of transportation.

Harker stopped in his tracks upon thus encountering his host. But the count, his manner as cheerful and pleasant as if there had never been any such difficulties as mirrors and razors between them, sat up and greeted his young guest in a hearty way.

“I am glad you found your way in here, for I am sure there is much that will interest you. These friends”—and here Dracula laid his long-nailed hand on some of the books—”have been good friends to me, and for some years past 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. But alas, as yet I know your tongue only through books. To you, my friend, I look that I know it to speak.”

“But, Count,” Harker assured him, “you know and speak English thoroughly!”

Dracula, still sitting on the sofa, nodded gravely. “I thank you, my friend, for your all-too-flattering estimate, but yet I fear 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.”

“Indeed,” the young Englishman persisted, “you speak excellently.”

“Not so,” the old man answered. “Well I know that did I move and speak in your London, none there are among your countrymen who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me. Here I am noble; I am 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 have been so long master that I would be master still—or at least that none other should be master of me.”

Harker could only agree with this view, which he considered quite reasonable; and for some time the conversation proceeded, as between two rational and intelligent men, touching on many subjects.

Only when the young man raised the subject of his possible departure from the castle was he brusquely dismissed.

The days passed for Harker largely in slumber, and the nights in reading or wandering, or long rambling conversations with the count. To Harker time seemed to perish, in a kind of eerie monotony of existence, until he could no longer feel absolutely certain of the dates he wrote down in his journal.

The hardest thing to bear was his concern for Mina—the pride she had felt in his achievement must long ago have turned to worry, and then to fear—not only for his safety, but that the lack of any word from him might mean his love had cooled, even that he had been unfaithful.

Eventually a night came when the young man left his rooms determined to dare a bolder exploration of the castle than any he had yet attempted in his weeks of involuntary confinement.

Gradually he had become convinced that his condition in this place could only be described as confinement. As his time as an increasingly unwilling guest had lengthened into weeks, his methodical explorations, first tentative, then carried on with increasing urgency, had brought him to a dread discovery; there were doors, doors, doors everywhere, but almost all of them the doors of a fortress, locked and bolted! In no place save from the high windows was there an available exit.

The castle was a veritable prison, and he was indeed a prisoner!

When Harker reached that conclusion, a wild feeling came over him. he rushed up and down stairs, trying every door and peering out of every window he could find. But the conviction of helplessness soon overpowered all other feelings.

At that point he sat down quietly—as quietly as he had ever done anything in his life—and began to think.

Of one thing only was he immediately certain—that it was no use making his ideas or fears on the subject known to the count. If he, Harker, was indeed a prisoner, the count was well aware of the fact, being himself responsible.

This night, having as he thought already explored every available downward path that might logically have led him to some opportunity for escape, Harker tried a new tactic and went up. An ascending stone stair he had not tried before brought him to a vantage points from which he could look out of the castle toward the south, over miles of the surrounding countryside. Straight below him lay nothing but a terrible precipice, of castle wall atop sheer cliff, and at last a river, perhaps a thousand feet below. There was some sense of freedom in the vast expanse, inaccessible though it was, as compared with the narrow darkness of the courtyard, all that was visible from the windows of his apartment.

Rejoicing in the momentary sense of freedom, he gazed out over the beautiful countryside, bathed in soft yellow moonlight, so that there was an illusion of almost daylight visibility. In the soft radiance the distant hills became melted, and the shadows in the valleys and gorges were of velvety blackness.

Here, Harker, despite the increasing certainty that he was indeed a captive, found a measure of peace and comfort in every breath he drew. But presently, as the young Englishman leaned from the window, his eye was caught by some object moving on the castle wall a level below him and somewhat to his left. It was there he imagined, from what he knew of the interior order of the rooms, that the windows of the count’s own chamber must probably lie.

The window at which Harker had found his observation post was tall and deep. He drew back behind the stonework at its side and looked out carefully.

In a moment Harker saw the count’s head emerging from the lower window. He did not see the face, but, even at a little distance and by moonlight, knew the man by the neck and the movement of his back and arms. In any case, Harker thought, he could not ever possibly mistake those hands.

Harker’s feelings of curiosity changed to repulsion and terror when he observed the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, facedown, with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings.

At first the young man watching could not believe his eyes. He thought what he was seeing must be some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow. But soon he was forced to admit his conviction that it could be no delusion.

What manner of man was this, or what manner of creature in the semblance of a man?

Harker recoiled from the window, feeling the dread of the horrible place overpowering him; he was in fear—in awful fear—and there was no escape…

Gradually Harker managed to control his nerves. Feeling at least assured that the count had left the castle for the time being, he nerved himself for a bolder attempt at exploration.

He went quickly back to his rooms and, taking a fresh lamp, from there down the stone stairs to the hall where he had entered the castle originally. He found he could pull back the bolts of the front door easily enough and, with some effort, unhook the great chains; but still the door was locked and the key was gone.

There were no tools at hand with which he might hope to attack the formidable barrier successfully; and, as usual, he could hear the wolves howling at no very great distance beyond it. He feared he would not long survive the opening of this door tonight.

But he was not going to give up. From the great hall he went on to make a more methodical examination than before of all the various stairs and passages to which he had access, and to try the doors that opened from them. One or two small rooms near the hall were open, but there was nothing to see in them except old furniture.

At last he found one door, near the top of the highest accessible stairway, which he had not yet tried to open. Though this door seemed at first to be locked, when Harker leaned his weight against the surface, it yielded a little under pressure.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Categories: Saberhagen, Fred