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

Harker said: “Some nobleman in the exotic wilds of Transylvania is acquiring property—a number of properties—around London, and I am being sent to close the transactions. Money is no object, and our legal fees will be substantial, to say the least. Extraordinary. Can you imagine the power that sort of wealth commands? Think of it, Mina!”

“I’m thinking of our wedding, Jon.”

“As I say, we shall be able to be married as soon as I return—now we can make it a grand, expensive affair, that Lucy and all her aristocratic friends will talk about.”

Their stroll had brought them near the entrance to the maze of tall yew hedge. Mina stopped, staring into the beginning of the shaded pathway. She said: “I don’t really care about them—how they talk. I just want us to be happy—don’t you see?”

Her companion was gazing at her fondly. “And we shall be happy, my little nightingale—I know what’s best, for both of us.”

“Of course. ” A small cloud seemed to have come over the sun. “We’ve waited so long—haven’t we?”

This raising, however obliquely, of the subject of time, caused Harker to drop Mina’s arm and dig into his waistcoat pocket for his watch. His eyebrows went up.

“I hadn’t realized… Darling, I must dash. You aren’t to worry, now. I’ll write faithfully—”

“Jonathan, I love you!” And Mina surprised them both with the ferocity of her kiss.


It was a kiss that Harker looked back on with fond longing a week later. During the seven days since his departure from London the young solicitor had been almost continually aboard one train or another, and by this time had put many weary railway miles behind him, inhaling a great deal of coal smoke in the process.

His current transportation was a section of the famed Orient Express, which he had ridden from Paris east through Budapest, and which was now bearing him even farther toward the rising sun. The final destination of this train—though Harker did not intend to stay with it that far—was the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna.

So far Harker had found the journey tiring, but far from boring. The alterations in customs, language, and scenery that he had encountered had already been more than enough to convince him that he had definitely left the more or less familiar peoples and places of Western Europe far behind.

Harker had foresightedly equipped himself for his trip with several maps, as well as guidebooks and railroad timetables, and had found them very useful. Though for days now his maps had remained almost continually folded in his pockets, he had already studied them sufficiently that in his mind’s eye he could visualize in satisfactory detail what they had to say regarding the region he was about to enter.

The district in which his rather mysterious client resided was in the extreme east of the territory known as Transylvania—which meant, of course, “The Land Beyond the Forest.” One of the guidebooks consulted by the young solicitor had assured him that every known supersitition in the world was gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the center of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; Harker had an idea that this might make his stay interesting, and planned to ask Count Dracula about some of the more exotic local beliefs.

All during the seventh day of his journey the train seemed to dawdle through a country that impressed the traveler as being full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes little towns or castles appeared on the top of steep hills; sometimes the rails closely followed the course of rivers and streams, which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side to be subject to great floods. At every station, large and small, were groups of people, sometimes crowds, in all sorts of attire. Some reminded Harker of the peasants of France or Germany, with short jackets and round hats and homemade trousers; others he considered very picturesque. He considered the strangest to be the Slovaks, who struck the English visitor as more barbarian than the rest, with big cowboy hats, baggy trousers of dirty white, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, and all studded over with brass nails.

One item of equipment now very often out of the young traveler’s pocket and in his hands was the neat notebook in which Harker had determined to keep a day-to-day, and sometimes hour-by-hour, journal of this interesting trip. He looked forward with keen anticipation to being able to share it all with Mina.

His latest entry read:

The region which is my destination lies on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian Mountains—to an ordinary Englishman like myself one of the wildest and least-known portions of Europe.

The railroad could carry Harker no closer to his goal than a town called Bistritz, of some twelve thousand inhabitants, and upon his arrival there in late afternoon he left the train. The place was certainly picturesque enough to suit him, surrounded as it was by the ruins of antique fortifications; and Harker was pleased to find that in accordance with Count Dracula’s meticulous instructions, a room had been reserved for him at the Golden Krone Hotel.

When he registered at the Golden Krone, the young solicitor was immediately handed a letter from his client, written in a neat English script:

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 on 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,


Harker lay fitfully in his bed at the Golden Krone, but he had dined well, and if his food came more heavily seasoned with pepper and paprika than he was accustomed to, he was ready to accept this and other peculiarities of the place in a spirit of adventure.

For breakfast on the next day he had more paprika, as seasoning in a sort of porridge of maize flour, with eggplant. After breakfast he passed the time agreeably enough in making and noting observations of things that interested him.

When, in midafternoon, it came time to board the coach, the traveler was interested to discover that his only companions were a taciturn local merchant and two Gypsy women, the latter apparently mother and daughter. As far as Harker could make out, none of the three spoke English, or any other language with which he had the least familiarity.

All three of these natives, when they learned that the young foreigner’s destination was the Borgo Pass, gazed at him with odd expressions, compounded of what he took to be pity and alarm. This attitude Harker found somewhat unsettling—as he did the proximity of the voluptuous young Gypsy woman, who happened to be seated across from him, and whose knee touched his from time to time in the close confines of the coach.

The ride began uneventfully enough, though the driver kept the horses at a swifter pace than Harker had expected. At intervals during the journey his fellow passengers conversed among themselves in a language he could not begin to understand, exchanging some remarks that Harker was convinced referred to him.

The four had been confined together for several hours in the vehicle, swaying and bouncing over gradually deteriorating roads, and Harker was using the last of the fading daylight to yearn over a small metal-framed photograph of Mina, when suddenly the young Gypsy woman, who had been studying the foreigner intently for some time, appeared to come to a decision.

Leaning forward boldly, and smiling as if in reassurance, she seized Harker’s right hand. He hastily used his free hand to stuff Mina’s picture into one of his pockets, and was about to attempt to convey to the Gypsy that he had no wish to have his fortune told, when he realized that the young woman’s object had rather been to give him something.

Looking down, totally at a loss to understand, he observed the object the girl had pressed into his hand—it was a small crucifix, attached to a fine chain that appeared to be of silver.

The two women, with energetic signs and coaxings, were making plain to Harker their urgent desire that he should put the silver chain around his neck. When Harker looked helplessly to the merchant, that gentleman, chewing his heavy mustache, only frowned and nodded thoughtfully, as if he thought that on the whole what the women were suggesting was a good idea.

Willing to make an effort to humor his traveling companions, Harker took off his hat and slipped the thin chain over his head. Immediately the two women were all smiles and satisfaction—yes, there was no doubt that was really what they had wanted him to do. He put on his hat again and sat back.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred