While Harker stood stunned, the count, moving calmly and deliberately, plucked the razor from the young man’s almost nerveless hand. Harker saw him turn his back and raise his hands toward his own face—and the count’s red-sleeved arms and shoulder moved with a spasmodic shudder.
Turning once more to face Harker, Dracula was still for a moment, poised in the pose of a barber—or an assassin—right hand still clutching the bright steel. Dimly Harker, who had momentarily ceased to breathe, noted that the blade had been wiped clean—somehow—of lather and of the trace of blood.
Dracula licked his red lips. Then, as if suddenly remembering something, the old man demanded: “The letters I requested—have you written them?”
The young man gasped. “Yes, sir—they are on the table.”
With a motion of his chin and hand Dracula indicated that Harker should remain still; then with a gentle motion of his left hand under Harker’s chin, he tilted up his half-shaven face into the full light of the open window.
The sharpness of the razor approached the cheek that was still lathered and unshaven; the steel edge caressed the skin there delicately and efficiently—a movement under exquisitely precise control.
Meanwhile Harker remained in exactly the position where he had been posed; it seemed to him that his body knew it must not move a fraction of an inch, that it dared not even quiver with the fear that was making his heart pound.
A razor, in the hand of a madman, of a monster…
Another delicate stroke of steel, removing nothing but whiskers and lather. And yet another gentle stroke. Abstractedly, seeming to concentrate his entire attention on the job of shaving, the count spoke in a kind of monotone, as if he were only musing aloud.
“Let me advise you, my dear young friend… nay, let me warn you, with all seriousness… should you leave these rooms, you will not by chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle. It is old, and has many memories… and there are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely…”
The old man’s voice trailed off. Harker could see that Dracula’s burning eyes were fixed on his throat, or rather just below it—on the place where the Gypsy’s rosary must now be visible under his collar, which was opened now for shaving.
“I’m sure I understand,” Harker heard himself whispering. “I have seen—strange things here already.”
But perhaps the count did not hear this remark, for he had already turned away, leaving the job of shaving still incomplete. The razor, this time unwiped, suddenly lay on the table where the three letters were no longer; and the room’s thick door slammed shut with a heavy sound, which seemed to bear a burden of finality.
This evening the great hall at Hillingham was coming alive with conversation and subdued laughter—a harpist, having tuned up, was beginning to play tunes from the latest Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. One carriage after another was pulling in along the great curving drive, stopping to discharge elegantly dressed guests, then pulling away again to wait for their departure.
Near the middle of the hall a frail, gray-haired woman, elegantly gowned, stood greeting the succession of arriving guests. This was Mrs. Westenra, Lucy’s widowed mother and owner of the estate. Mrs. Westenra’s health had been poor for a long time, and between arrivals she rested on a divan, fanning herself.
Mina had finished dressing for the party and had come out of her room, but she had not yet joined the small throng below. Instead she lingered reluctantly on the top landing of the main stair, observing below the gaiety so much out of tune with her own feelings.
In the days since Jonathans departure Mina had spent much of her time worrying about her fiancé, far off in Eastern Europe, though she kept trying to tell herself that her worries were unreasonable. It did not help that more than a week had passed and she had received no communication from Jonathan except one brief letter, posted in Paris, and containing no real news.
Lucy, in her new party dress, now came hurrying along the upstairs hall. “There you are! Mina, come on down. Someone simply has to help me entertain them all tonight. Mother enjoys parties as a rule, but she’s not really up to them any longer.”
Mina said distantly: “I’ll be down in a moment…”
“Oh, come! It will be good for you, distract you from your worries about Jonathan.”
Catching her reflection in a wall mirror, Lucy primped at her red hair. “I’m so happy I don’t know what to do with myself! I think I’m about to have three marriage proposals in one evening. Oh, Mina, I hope there is enough of me to share!”
That was enough to distract Mina despite herself. “You certainly can’t marry all three!”
“Why not?” Lucy turned to her friend. Her question seemed almost serious; certainly it sounded like a plea for help. “Tell me, why can’t a girl marry three men, or as many as want her?”
Mina was saved from having to attempt an explanation when Lucy was distracted by the latest arrival in the hall below. She whispered excitedly: “Here comes one of my three now!”
The newest guest at the party presented a striking figure indeed, that of a tall, dark-mustached young man wearing a wide-brimmed hat and boots belonging to the American west. All of his clothing looked expensive, but by London standards definitely unconventional. Occasionally visible under the skirt of his coat at his left side was a long leather sheath evidently depending from his belt.
Mina was fascinated despite herself. “What is that?”
Lucy said proudly: “That is a Texan. Quincey P. Morris. A friend of Arthur’s, and also of Dr. Seward. The three of them have been adventuring all over the world.”
“And Mr. Morris has proposed to you?”
“Well—I expect him to do so at any moment. Isn’t it wonderful, Mina? He’s so young and fresh. I can imagine him as—as a wild stallion, between my legs.”
Mina blushed, and at the same time had to stifle an improper laugh. “You are positively indecent!”
“I know—don’t worry, dear, I only say those things to make you blush; you do it so prettily.”
“I really hope that is the only reason you say them.
And what is that sheathed object Mr. Morris carries under his coat?”
Lucy struggled with her own laughter. “Dear Quincey carries with him everywhere a very impressive—tool!”
“But he does, dear—he truly does. I’ll show you!” And Lucy went skipping down the stair, only adopting a somewhat more sedate pace when she reached the floor below and moved to welcome Quincey.
Mina watched from upstairs as Lucy took his arm, freely sidling up to the tall man in a way that brought a frosty glance of disapproval from her mother on the other side of the great hall.
A moment later Lucy had actually reached under the Texan’s coat and drawn an enormous bowie knife from its sheath, waving the footlong blade gaily in the direction of Mina, who was just beginning to descend the stairs.
For half an hour Mina mingled dutifully with other guests. Then she again drifted to the fringe of the party. She was momentarily alone with her thoughts, struggling with her worries concerning Jonathan, when Lucy once more approached her.
This time the red-haired girl was quietly ecstatic. “They’re all here. I do think I’m about to have three marriage proposals in one day. What shall I do?”
Mina scarcely knew whether to laugh or to worry seriously about her friend’s romantic difficulties. “Then the Texan has proposed?”
Mina looked for Mr. Quincey Morris and discovered him on the other side of the room, gazing soulfully in Lucy’s direction. “I am almost afraid to ask what?’
“Marriage!” Lucy, concentrating entirely on her own feelings, was oblivious to the dry humor in Mina’s question.
She gave the impression of hanging balanced between joy and panic. “I told him there’s, another… I did not say two others, but actually they’re all going to be here—look, that’s Dr. Jack Seward coming in now.”
At the far end of the great hall an intense-looking man in his early thirties was just giving his hat and gloves into the custody of a servant.
“He’s brilliant,” Lucy went on. “Still young enough to be interesting, but already has an immense lunatic asylum all under his own care. I thought he would just do for you, if you were not already engaged.”
“Lunatics! I see. And so naturally you thought of me.”
There was a touch of cruelty in Lucy’s laughter. Then her face, as she gazed past Mina’s shoulder, took on an expression Mina had not seen her wear before.
Turning, Mina beheld a man she had heard of but not yet met entering the hall. A guest who could only be the Honorable Arthur Holmwood, the future Lord Godalming, had arrived close on the heels of Dr. Seward. Holmwood, wealthy, handsome, and imperious, was exchanging uneasy looks with the doctor.