“Dracula’s Guest”

I have a love-hate relationship with BBC Radio 7. I love their programming, but I hate how absurdly difficult it can be to find here in the United States, or indeed, anywhere outside of the United Kingdom. While I admit that I’ve never been a fan of copyright law, recognizing it as a necessary part of a well-ordered civilization like speed limit laws, I tend to think that government backed programing should be a bit more flexible about audience limitations with regards to their archives. That said, I’ll get to the point.

Last week, I found the BBC Radio 7 series entitled “A Short History of Vampires,” the first episode of which was, of course, about Bram Stoker. That episode was entitled “Dracula’s Guest – Bram Stoker,” and was about the Stoker short story entitled “Dracula’s Guest.” Prior to listening to that fan-fawning episode, I was stroke by the fact that I hadn’t a clue that Bram Stoker had ever written anything other then the famous novel “Dracula,” much less that there was an “original” Count Dracula short story out there. So I did some digging at Project Gutenberg, and was very happy with the results:

Books: Bram Stoker (sorted by popularity)

  • So, without further commentary, here are the first few pages of “Dracula’s Guest.”

    Dracula’s Guest

    When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich,
    and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer. Just as we were
    about to depart, Herr Delbrück (the maître d’hôtel of the Quatre
    Saisons, where I was staying) came down, bareheaded, to the carriage
    and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the coachman, still
    holding his hand on the handle of the carriage door:

    ‘Remember you are back by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a
    shiver in the north wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am
    sure you will not be late.’ Here he smiled, and added, ‘for you know
    what night it is.’

    Johann answered with an emphatic, ‘Ja, mein Herr,’ and, touching his
    hat, drove off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after
    signalling to him to stop:

    ‘Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?’

    He crossed himself, as he answered laconically: ‘Walpurgis nacht.’ Then
    he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big
    as a turnip, and looked at it, with his eyebrows gathered together and a
    little impatient shrug of his shoulders. I realised that this was his
    way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay, and sank
    back in the carriage, merely motioning him to proceed. He started off
    rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses
    seemed to throw up their heads and sniffed the air suspiciously. On such
    occasions I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak, for
    we were traversing a sort of high, wind-swept plateau. As we drove, I
    saw a road that looked but little used, and which seemed to dip through
    a little, winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk
    of offending him, I called Johann to stop—and when he had pulled up, I
    told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of
    excuses, and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat
    piqued my curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered
    fencingly, and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest. Finally I
    said:

    ‘Well, Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come
    unless you like; but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I
    ask.’ For answer he seemed to throw himself off the box, so quickly did
    he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands appealingly to me,
    and implored me not to go. There was just enough of English mixed with
    the German for me to understand the drift of his talk. He seemed always
    just about to tell me something—the very idea of which evidently
    frightened him; but each time he pulled himself up, saying, as he
    crossed himself: ‘Walpurgis-Nacht!’

    I tried to argue with him, but it was difficult to argue with a man when
    I did not know his language. The advantage certainly rested with him,
    for although he began to speak in English, of a very crude and broken
    kind, he always got excited and broke into his native tongue—and every
    time he did so, he looked at his watch. Then the horses became restless
    and sniffed the air. At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a
    frightened way, he suddenly jumped forward, took them by the bridles and
    led them on some twenty feet. I followed, and asked why he had done
    this. For answer he crossed himself, pointed to the spot we had left and
    drew his carriage in the direction of the other road, indicating a
    cross, and said, first in German, then in English: ‘Buried him—him what
    killed themselves.’

    I remembered the old custom of burying suicides at cross-roads: ‘Ah! I
    see, a suicide. How interesting!’ But for the life of me I could not
    make out why the horses were frightened.

    Whilst we were talking, we heard a sort of sound between a yelp and a
    bark. It was far away; but the horses got very restless, and it took
    Johann all his time to quiet them. He was pale, and said, ‘It sounds
    like a wolf—but yet there are no wolves here now.’

    ‘No?’ I said, questioning him; ‘isn’t it long since the wolves were so
    near the city?’

    ‘Long, long,’ he answered, ‘in the spring and summer; but with the snow
    the wolves have been here not so long.’

    Whilst he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds
    drifted rapidly across the sky. The sunshine passed away, and a breath
    of cold wind seemed to drift past us. It was only a breath, however, and
    more in the nature of a warning than a fact, for the sun came out
    brightly again. Johann looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and
    said:

    ‘The storm of snow, he comes before long time.’ Then he looked at his
    watch again, and, straightway holding his reins firmly—for the horses
    were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads—he
    climbed to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our
    journey.

    I felt a little obstinate and did not at once get into the carriage.

    ‘Tell me,’ I said, ‘about this place where the road leads,’ and I
    pointed down.

    Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer, before he answered, ‘It
    is unholy.’

    ‘What is unholy?’ I enquired.

    ‘The village.’

    ‘Then there is a village?’

    ‘No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years.’ My curiosity was piqued,
    ‘But you said there was a village.’

    ‘There was.’

    ‘Where is it now?’

    Whereupon he burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed
    up that I could not quite understand exactly what he said, but roughly I
    gathered that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been
    buried in their graves; and sounds were heard under the clay, and when
    the graves were opened, men and women were found rosy with life, and
    their mouths red with blood. And so, in haste to save their lives (aye,
    and their souls!—and here he crossed himself) those who were left fled
    away to other places, where the living lived, and the dead were dead and
    not—not something. He was evidently afraid to speak the last words. As
    he proceeded with his narration, he grew more and more excited. It
    seemed as if his imagination had got hold of him, and he ended in a
    perfect paroxysm of fear—white-faced, perspiring, trembling and looking
    round him, as if expecting that some dreadful presence would manifest
    itself there in the bright sunshine on the open plain. Finally, in an
    agony of desperation, he cried:

    ‘Walpurgis nacht!’ and pointed to the carriage for me to get in. All my
    English blood rose at this, and, standing back, I said:

    ‘You are afraid, Johann—you are afraid. Go home; I shall return alone;
    the walk will do me good.’ The carriage door was open. I took from the
    seat my oak walking-stick—which I always carry on my holiday
    excursions—and closed the door, pointing back to Munich, and said, ‘Go
    home, Johann—Walpurgis-nacht doesn’t concern Englishmen.’

    The horses were now more restive than ever, and Johann was trying to
    hold them in, while excitedly imploring me not to do anything so
    foolish. I pitied the poor fellow, he was deeply in earnest; but all the
    same I could not help laughing. His English was quite gone now. In his
    anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was
    to talk my language, so he jabbered away in his native German. It began
    to be a little tedious. After giving the direction, ‘Home!’ I turned to
    go down the cross-road into the valley.

    With a despairing gesture, Johann turned his horses towards Munich. I
    leaned on my stick and looked after him. He went slowly along the road
    for a while: then there came over the crest of the hill a man tall and
    thin. I could see so much in the distance. When he drew near the horses,
    they began to jump and kick about, then to scream with terror. Johann
    could not hold them in; they bolted down the road, running away madly. I
    watched them out of sight, then looked for the stranger, but I found
    that he, too, was gone.

    With a light heart I turned down the side road through the deepening
    valley to which Johann had objected. There was not the slightest reason,
    that I could see, for his objection; and I daresay I tramped for a
    couple of hours without thinking of time or distance, and certainly
    without seeing a person or a house. So far as the place was concerned,
    it was desolation, itself. But I did not notice this particularly till,
    on turning a bend in the road, I came upon a scattered fringe of wood;
    then I recognised that I had been impressed unconsciously by the
    desolation of the region through which I had passed.

    I sat down to rest myself, and began to look around. It struck me that
    it was considerably colder than it had been at the commencement of my
    walk—a sort of sighing sound seemed to be around me, with, now and
    then, high overhead, a sort of muffled roar. Looking upwards I noticed
    that great thick clouds were drifting rapidly across the sky from North
    to South at a great height. There were signs of coming storm in some
    lofty stratum of the air. I was a little chilly, and, thinking that it
    was the sitting still after the exercise of walking, I resumed my
    journey.

    The ground I passed over was now much more picturesque. There were no
    striking objects that the eye might single out; but in all there was a
    charm of beauty. I took little heed of time and it was only when the
    deepening twilight forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I
    should find my way home. The brightness of the day had gone. The air was
    cold, and the drifting of clouds high overhead was more marked. They
    were accompanied by a sort of far-away rushing sound, through which
    seemed to come at intervals that mysterious cry which the driver had
    said came from a wolf. For a while I hesitated. I had said I would see
    the deserted village, so on I went, and presently came on a wide stretch
    of open country, shut in by hills all around. Their sides were covered
    with trees which spread down to the plain, dotting, in clumps, the
    gentler slopes and hollows which showed here and there. I followed with
    my eye the winding of the road, and saw that it curved close to one of
    the densest of these clumps and was lost behind it.

    As I looked there came a cold shiver in the air, and the snow began to
    fall. I thought of the miles and miles of bleak country I had passed,
    and then hurried on to seek the shelter of the wood in front. Darker and
    darker grew the sky, and faster and heavier fell the snow, till the
    earth before and around me was a glistening white carpet the further
    edge of which was lost in misty vagueness. The road was here but crude,
    and when on the level its boundaries were not so marked, as when it
    passed through the cuttings; and in a little while I found that I must
    have strayed from it, for I missed underfoot the hard surface, and my
    feet sank deeper in the grass and moss. Then the wind grew stronger and
    blew with ever increasing force, till I was fain to run before it. The
    air became icy-cold, and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The
    snow was now falling so thickly and whirling around me in such rapid
    eddies that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the
    heavens were torn asunder by vivid lightning, and in the flashes I could
    see ahead of me a great mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress all
    heavily coated with snow.

    I was soon amongst the shelter of the trees, and there, in comparative
    silence, I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Presently the
    blackness of the storm had become merged in the darkness of the night
    By-and-by the storm seemed to be passing away: it now only came in
    fierce puffs or blasts. At such moments the weird sound of the wolf
    appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.

    Now and again, through the black mass of drifting cloud, came a
    straggling ray of moonlight, which lit up the expanse, and showed me
    that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and yew trees. As the
    snow had ceased to fall, I walked out from the shelter and began to
    investigate more closely. It appeared to me that, amongst so many old
    foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a house in
    which, though in ruins, I could find some sort of shelter for a while.
    As I skirted the edge of the copse, I found that a low wall encircled
    it, and following this I presently found an opening. Here the cypresses
    formed an alley leading up to a square mass of some kind of building.
    Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds obscured
    the moon, and I passed up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown
    colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of
    shelter, and I groped my way blindly on.

    I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed; and,
    perhaps in sympathy with nature’s silence, my heart seemed to cease to
    beat. But this was only momentarily; for suddenly the moonlight broke
    through the clouds, showing me that I was in a graveyard, and that the
    square object before me was a great massive tomb of marble, as white as
    the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a
    fierce sigh of the storm, which appeared to resume its course with a
    long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked, and
    felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the
    heart. Then while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb,
    the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it was returning
    on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I approached the
    sepulchre to see what it was, and why such a thing stood alone in such a
    place. I walked around it, and read, over the Doric door, in German:

    COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ
    IN STYRIA
    SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH
    1801

    On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble—for
    the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone—was a great
    iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian
    letters:

    ‘The dead travel fast.’

    There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it
    gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the
    first time, that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me,
    which came under almost mysterious circumstances and with a terrible
    shock. This was Walpurgis Night!

    Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people,
    the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came
    forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held
    revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the
    depopulated village of centuries ago. This was where the suicide lay;
    and this was the place where I was alone—unmanned, shivering with cold
    in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took
    all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage,
    not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.

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