• Victoria Reeve

Dracula, Flipped: Chapter 6

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

Chapter 6

Max Murray’s Journal

24 July. Whitby. — Leonard met me at the station, looking sweeter and lovelier than ever, and we drove up to the house at the Crescent in which they have rooms. This is a lovely place. The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near enough to see down. The houses of the old town — the side away from us, are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the pictures we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of “Marmion,” where the boy was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white gentleman is seen in one of the windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness stretches out into the sea. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.

In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard, and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze.

I shall come and sit here often myself and work. Indeed, I am writing now, with my book on my knee, and listening to the talk of three old women who are sitting beside me. They seem to do nothing all day but sit here and talk.

The harbour lies below me, with, on the far side, one long granite wall stretching out into the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of it, in the middle of which is a lighthouse. A heavy seawall runs along outside of it. On the near side, the seawall makes an elbow crooked inversely, and its end too has a lighthouse. Between the two piers there is a narrow opening into the harbour, which then suddenly widens.

It is nice at high water, but when the tide is out it shoals away to nothing, and there is merely the stream of the Esk, running between banks of sand, with rocks here and there. Outside the harbour on this side there rises for about half a mile a great reef, the sharp of which runs straight out from behind the south lighthouse. At the end of it is a buoy with a bell, which swings in bad weather, and sends in a mournful sound on the wind.

They have a legend here that when a ship is lost bells are heard out at sea. I must ask the old woman about this. She is coming this way . . .

She is a funny old woman. She must be awfully old, for her face is gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree. She tells me that she is nearly a hundred, and that she was a sailor in the Greenland fishing fleet when Waterloo was fought. She is, I am afraid, a very sceptical person, for when I asked her about the bells at sea and the White Gentleman at the abbey she said very brusquely,

“I wouldn’t fash masel’ about them, mister. Them things be all wore out. Mind, I don’t say that they never was, but I do say that they wasn’t in my time. They be all very well for comers and trippers, an’ the like, but not for a nice young gentleman like you. Them feet-folks from York and Leeds that be always eatin’ cured herrin’s and drinkin’ tea an’ lookin’ out to buy cheap jet would creed aught. I wonder masel’ who’d be bothered tellin’ lies to them, even the newspapers, which is full of fool-talk.”

I thought she would be a good person to learn interesting things from, so I asked her if she would mind telling me something about the whale fishing in the old days. She was just settling herself to begin when the clock struck six, whereupon she laboured to get up, and said,

“I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss. My grand-son doesn’t like to be kept waitin’ when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to crammle aboon the grees, for there be a many of ’em, and mister, I lack belly-timber sairly by the clock.”

She hobbled away, and I could see her hurrying, as well as she could, down the steps. The steps are a great feature on the place. They lead from the town to the church, there are hundreds of them, I do not know how many, and they wind up in a delicate curve. The slope is so gentle that a horse could easily walk up and down them.

I think they must originally have had something to do with the abbey. I shall go home too. Leonard went out, visiting with his father, and as they were only duty calls, I did not go.

1 August. — I came up here an hour ago with Leonard, and we had a most interesting talk with my old friend and the two others who always come and join her. She is evidently the Lady Oracle of them, and I should think must have been in her time a most dictatorial person.

She will not admit anything, and down faces everybody. If she can’t out-argue them she bullies them, and then takes their silence for agreement with her views.

Leonard was looking sweetly handsome in his white frockcoat. He has got a beautiful colour since he has been here.

I noticed that the old women did not lose any time in coming and sitting near him when we sat down. He is so sweet with old people, I think they all fell in love with him on the spot. Even my old woman succumbed and did not contradict him, but gave me double share instead. I got her on the subject of the legends, and she went off at once into a sort of sermon. I must try to remember it and put it down.

“It be all fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel, that’s what it be and nowt else. These bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ bar-guests an’ bogles an’ all anent them is only fit to set bairns an’ dizzy men a’belderin’. They be nowt but air-blebs. They, an’ all grims an’ signs an’ warnin’s, be all invented by parsons an’ illsome berk-bodies an’ railway touters to skeer an’ scunner hafflin’s, an’ to get folks to do somethin’ that they don’t other incline to. It makes me ireful to think o’ them. Why, it’s them that, not content with printin’ lies on paper an’ preachin’ them out of pulpits, does want to be cuttin’ them on the tombstones. Look here all around you in what airt ye will. All them steans, holdin’ up their heads as well as they can out of their pride, is acant, simply tumblin’ down with the weight o’ the lies wrote on them, ‘Here lies the body’ or ‘Sacred to the memory’ wrote on all of them, an’ yet in nigh half of them there bean’t no bodies at all, an’ the memories of them bean’t cared a pinch of snuff about, much less sacred. Lies all of them, nothin’ but lies of one kind or another! My gog, but it’ll be a quare scowderment at the Day of Judgment when they come tumblin’ up in their death-sarks, all jouped together an’ trying’ to drag their tombsteans with them to prove how good they was, some of them trimmlin’ an’ dithering, with their hands that dozzened an’ slippery from lyin’ in the sea that they can’t even keep their gurp o’ them.”

I could see from the old lass’s self-satisfied air and the way in which she looked round for the approval of her cronies that she was “showing off,” so I put in a word to keep her going.

“Oh, Mrs. Swales, you can’t be serious. Surely these tombstones are not all wrong?”

“Yabblins! There may be a poorish few not wrong, savin’ where they make out the people too good, for there be folk that do think a balm-bowl be like the sea, if only it be their own. The whole thing be only lies. Now look you here. You come here a stranger, an’ you see this kirkgarth.”

I nodded, for I thought it better to assent, though I did not quite understand her dialect. I knew it had something to do with the church.

She went on, “And you consate that all these steans be aboon folk that be haped here, snod an’ snog?” I assented again. “Then that be just where the lie comes in. Why, there be scores of these laybeds that be toom as old Dun’s ‘baccabox on Friday night.”

She nudged one of her companions, and they all laughed. “And, my gog! How could they be otherwise? Look at that one, the aftest abaft the bier-bank, read it!”

I went over and read, “Edwina Spencelagh, mistress mariner, murdered by pirates off the coast of Andres, April, 1854, age 30.” When I came back Mrs. Swales went on,

“Who brought her home, I wonder, to hap her here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! An’ you consated her body lay under! Why, I could name ye a dozen whose bones lie in the Greenland seas above,” she pointed northwards, “or where the currants may have drifted them. There be the steans around ye. Ye can, with your young eyes, read the small print of the lies from here. This Braithwaite Lowery, I knew her father, lost in the Lively off Greenland in ‘20, or Andrea Woodhouse, drowned in the same seas in 1777, or Jane Paxton, drowned off Cape Farewell a year later, or old Jane Rawlings, whose grandmother sailed with me, drowned in the Gulf of Finland in ‘50. Do ye think that all these women will have to make a rush to Whitby when the trumpet sounds? I have me antherums aboot it! I tell ye that when they got here they’d be jommlin’ and jostlin’ one another that way that it ‘ud be like a fight up on the ice in the old days, when we’d be at one another from daylight to dark, an’ tryin’ to tie up our cuts by the aurora borealis.” This was evidently local pleasantry, for the old woman cackled over it, and her cronies joined in with gusto.

“But,” I said, “surely you are not quite correct, for you start on the assumption that all the poor people, or their spirits, will have to take their tombstones with them on the Day of Judgment. Do you think that will be really necessary?”

“Well, what else be they tombstones for? Answer me that, mister!”

“To please their relatives, I suppose.”

“To please their relatives, you suppose!” This she said with intense scorn. “How will it pleasure their relatives to know that lies is wrote over them, and that everybody in the place knows that they be lies?”

She pointed to a stone at our feet which had been laid down as a slab, on which the seat was rested, close to the edge of the cliff. “Read the lies on that thruff-stone,” she said.

The letters were upside down to me from where I sat, but Leonard was more opposite to them, so he leant over and read, “Sacred to the memory of Georgina Canon, who died, in the hope of a glorious resurrection, on July 29,1873, falling from the rocks at Kettleness. This tomb was erected by her sorrowing father to his dearly beloved daughter. ‘She was the only daughter of her father, and he was a widower.’ Really, Mrs. Swales, I don’t see anything very funny in that!” He spoke his comment very gravely and somewhat severely.

“Ye don’t see aught funny! Ha-ha! But that’s because ye don’t gawm the sorrowin’ father was a hell-cat that hated her because she was acrewk’d, a regular lamiter she was, an’ she hated him so that she committed suicide in order that he mightn’t get an insurance he put on her life. She blew nigh the top of her head off with an old musket that they had for scarin’ crows with. ‘twarn’t for crows then, for it brought the clegs and the dowps to her. That’s the way she fell off the rocks. And, as to hopes of a glorious resurrection, I’ve often heard her say masel’ that she hoped she’d go to hell, for her father was so pious that he’d be sure to go to heaven, an’ she didn’t want to addle where he was. Now isn’t that stean at any rate,” she hammered it with her stick as she spoke, “a pack of lies? And won’t it make Gabriel keckle when Geordie comes pantin’ ut the grees with the tompstean balanced on her hump, and asks to be took as evidence!”

I did not know what to say, but Leonard turned the conversation as he said, rising up, “Oh, why did you tell us of this? It is my favourite seat, and I cannot leave it, and now I find I must go on sitting over the grave of a suicide.”

“That won’t harm ye, my pretty, an’ it may make poor Geordie gladsome to have so trim a lad sittin’ on her lap. That won’t hurt ye. Why, I’ve sat here off an’ on for nigh twenty years past, an’ it hasn’t done me no harm. Don’t ye fash about them as lies under ye, or that doesn’ lie there either! It’ll be time for ye to be getting scart when ye see the tombsteans all run away with, and the place as bare as a stubble-field. There’s the clock, and’I must gang. My service to ye, gentlemen!” And off she hobbled.

Leonard and I sat awhile, and it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat, and he told me all over again about Ann and their coming marriage. That made me just a little heart-sick, for I haven’t heard from Genevieve for a whole month.

The same day. I came up here alone, for I am very sad. There was no letter for me. I hope there cannot be anything the matter with Genevieve. The clock has just struck nine. I see the lights scattered all over the town, sometimes in rows where the streets are, and sometimes singly. They run right up the Esk and die away in the curve of the valley. To my left the view is cut off by a black line of roof of the old house next to the abbey. The sheep and lambs are bleating in the fields away behind me, and there is a clatter of donkeys’ hoofs up the paved road below. The band on the pier is playing a harsh waltz in good time, and further along the quay there is a Salvation Army meeting in a back street. Neither of the bands hears the other, but up here I hear and see them both. I wonder where Genevieve is and if she is thinking of me! I wish she were here.

Dr. Seward’s Diary

5 June. — The case of Renfield grows more interesting the more I get to understand the woman. She has certain qualities very largely developed, selfishness, secrecy, and purpose.

I wish I could get at what is the object of the latter. She seems to have some settled scheme of her own, but what it is I do not know. Her redeeming quality is a love of animals, though, indeed, she has such curious turns in it that I sometimes imagine she is only abnormally cruel. Her pets are of odd sorts.

Just now her hobby is catching flies. She has at present such a quantity that I have had myself to expostulate. To my astonishment, she did not break out into a fury, as I expected, but took the matter in simple seriousness. She thought for a moment, and then said, “May I have three days? I shall clear them away.” Of course, I said that would do. I must watch her.

18 June. — She has turned her mind now to spiders, and has got several very big fellows in a box. She keeps feeding them her flies, and the number of the latter is becoming sensibly diminished, although she has used half her food in attracting more flies from outside to her room.

1 July. — Her spiders are now becoming as great a nuisance as her flies, and today I told her that she must get rid of them.

She looked very sad at this, so I said that she must some of them, at all events. She cheerfully acquiesced in this, and I gave her the same time as before for reduction.

She disgusted me much while with her, for when a horrid blowfly, bloated with some carrion food, buzzed into the room, she caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between her finger and thumb, and before I knew what she was going to do, put it in her mouth and ate it.

I scolded her for it, but she argued quietly that it was very good and very wholesome, that it was life, strong life, and gave life to her. This gave me an idea, or the rudiment of one. I must watch how she gets rid of her spiders.

She has evidently some deep problem in her mind, for she keeps a little notebook in which she is always jotting down something. Whole pages of it are filled with masses of figures, generally single numbers added up in batches, and then the totals added in batches again, as though she were focusing some account, as the auditors put it.

8 July. — There is a method in her madness, and the rudimentary idea in my mind is growing. It will be a whole idea soon, and then, oh, unconscious cerebration, you will have to give the wall to your conscious sister.

I kept away from my friend for a few days, so that I might notice if there were any change. Things remain as they were except that she has parted with some of her pets and got a new one.

She has managed to get a sparrow, and has already partially tamed it. Her means of taming is simple, for already the spiders have diminished. Those that do remain, however, are well fed, for she still brings in the flies by tempting them with her food.

19 July — We are progressing. My friend has now a whole colony of sparrows, and her flies and spiders are almost obliterated. When I came in she ran to me and said she wanted to ask me a great favour, a very, very great favour. And as she spoke, she fawned on me like a dog.

I asked her what it was, and she said, with a sort of rapture in her voice and bearing, “A kitten, a nice, little, sleek playful kitten, that I can play with, and teach, and feed, and feed, and feed!”

I was not unprepared for this request, for I had noticed how her pets went on increasing in size and vivacity, but I did not care that her pretty family of tame sparrows should be wiped out in the same manner as the flies and spiders. So I said I would see about it, and asked her if he would not rather have a cat than a kitten.

Her eagerness betrayed her as she answered, “Oh, yes, I would like a cat! I only asked for a kitten lest you should refuse me a cat. No one would refuse me a kitten, would they?”

I shook my head, and said that at present I feared it would not be possible, but that I would see about it. Her face fell, and I could see a warning of danger in it, for there was a sudden fierce, sidelong look which meant killing. The woman is an undeveloped homicidal maniac. I shall test her with her present craving and see how it will work out, then I shall know more.

10 pm. — I have visited her again and found her sitting in a corner brooding. When I came in she threw herself on her knees before me and implored me to let him have a cat, that her salvation depended upon it.

I was firm, however, and told her that she could not have it, whereupon she went without a word, and sat down, gnawing her fingers, in the corner where I had found her. I shall see her in the morning early.

20 July. — Visited Renfield very early, before attendant went her rounds. Found her up and humming a tune. She was spreading out her sugar, which she had saved, in the window, and was manifestly beginning her fly catching again, and beginning it cheerfully and with a good grace.

I looked around for her birds, and not seeing them, asked her where they were. She replied, without turning round, that they had all flown away. There were a few feathers about the room and on her pillow a drop of blood. I said nothing, but went and told the keeper to report to me if there were anything odd about her during the day.

11 am. — The attendant has just been to see me to say that Renfield has been very sick and has disgorged a whole lot of feathers. “My belief is, doctor,” she said, “that she has eaten her birds, and that she just took and ate them raw!”

11 pm. — I gave Renfield a strong opiate tonight, enough to make even her sleep, and took away her pocketbook to look at it. The thought that has been buzzing about my brain lately is complete, and the theory proved.

My homicidal maniac is of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for her, and call her a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac. What she desires is to absorb as many lives as she can, and she has laid herself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. She gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been her later steps?

It would almost be worth while to complete the experiment. It might be done if there were only a sufficient cause. Women sneered at vivisection, and yet look at its results today! Why not advance science in its most difficult and vital aspect, the knowledge of the brain?

Had I even the secret of one such mind, did I hold the key to the fancy of even one lunatic, I might advance my own branch of science to a pitch compared with which Burdon-Sanderson’s physiology or Ferrier’s brain knowledge would be as nothing. If only there were a sufficient cause! I must not think too much of this, or I may be tempted. A good cause might turn the scale with me, for may not I too be of an exceptional brain, congenitally?

How well the woman reasoned. Lunatics always do within their own scope. I wonder at how many lives she values a woman, or if at only one. She has closed the account most accurately, and today begun a new record. How many of us begin a new record with each day of our lives?

To me it seems only yesterday that my whole life ended with my new hope, and that truly I began a new record. So it shall be until the Great Recorder sums me up and closes my ledger account with a balance to profit or loss.

Oh, Leonard, Leonard, I cannot be angry with you, nor can I be angry with my friend whose happiness is yours, but I must only wait on hopeless and work. Work! Work!

If I could have as strong a cause as my poor mad friend there, a good, unselfish cause to make me work, that would be indeed happiness.

Max Murray’s Journal

26 July. — I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time. And there is also something about the shorthand symbols that makes it different from writing. I am unhappy about Leonard and about Genevieve. I had not heard from Genevieve for some time, and was very concerned, but yesterday dear Mrs Hawkins, who is always so kind, sent me a letter from him. I had written asking her if she had heard, and she said the enclosed had just been received. It is only a line dated from Castle Dracula, and says that she is just starting for home. That is not like Genevieve. I do not understand it, and it makes me uneasy.

Then, too, Leonard, although he is so well, has lately taken to his old habit of walking in his sleep. His father has spoken to me about it, and we have decided that I am to lock the door of our room every night.

Mr. Westenra has got an idea that sleep-walkers always go out on roofs of houses and along the edges of cliffs and then get suddenly wakened and fall over with a despairing cry that echoes all over the place.

Poor dear, he is naturally anxious about Leonard, and he tells me that his wife, Leonard’s mother, had the same habit, that she would get up in the night and dress herself and go out, if she were not stopped.

Leonard is to be married in the autumn, and he is already planning out his suits and how his house is to be arranged. I sympathise with him, for I do the same, only Genevieve and I will start in life in a very simple way, and shall have to try to make both ends meet.

Ms Holmwood, she is the Hon. Ann Holmwood, only daughter of Lady Godalming, is coming up here very shortly, as soon as she can leave town, for her mother is not very well, and I think dear Leonard is counting the moments till she comes.

He wants to take her up in the seat on the churchyard cliff and show her the beauty of Whitby. I daresay it is the waiting which disturbs him. He will be all right when she arrives.

27 July. — No news from Genevieve. I am getting quite uneasy about her, though why I should I do not know, but I do wish that she would write, if it were only a single line.

Leonard walks more than ever, and each night I am awakened by him moving about the room. Fortunately, the weather is so hot that he cannot get cold. But still, the anxiety and the perpetually being awakened is beginning to tell on me, and I am getting nervous and wakeful myself. Thank God, Leonard’s health keeps up. Ms Holmwood has been suddenly called to Ring to see her mother, who has been taken seriously ill. Leonard frets at the postponement of seeing her, but it does not touch his looks. He is a trifle stouter, and his cheeks are a lovely rose-pink. He has lost the anemic look which he had. I pray it will all last.

3 August. — Another week gone by, and no news from Genevieve, not even to Mrs. Hawkins, from whom I have heard. Oh, I do hope she is not ill. She surely would have written. I look at that last letter of hers, but somehow it does not satisfy me. It does not read like her, and yet it is her writing. There is no mistake of that.

Leonard has not walked much in his sleep the last week, but there is an odd concentration about him which I do not understand, even in his sleep he seems to be watching me. He tries the door, and finding it locked, goes about the room searching for the key.

6 August. — Another three days, and no news. This suspense is getting dreadful. If I only knew where to write to or where to go to, I should feel easier. But no one has heard a word of Genevieve since that last letter. I must only pray to God for patience.

Leonard is more excitable than ever, but is otherwise well. Last night was very threatening, and the fisherwomen say that we are in for a storm. I must try to watch it and learn the weather signs.

Today is a grey day, and the sun as I write is hidden in thick clouds, high over Kettleness. Everything is grey except the green grass, which seems like emerald amongst it, grey earthy rock, grey clouds, tinged with the sunburst at the far edge, hang over the grey sea, into which the sandpoints stretch like grey figures. The sea is tumbling in over the shallows and the sandy flats with a roar, muffled in the sea-mists drifting inland. The horizon is lost in a grey mist. All vastness, the clouds are piled up like giant rocks, and there is a ‘brool’ over the sea that sounds like some passage of doom. Dark figures are on the beach here and there, sometimes half shrouded in the mist, and seem ‘women like trees walking’. The fishing boats are racing for home, and rise and dip in the ground swell as they sweep into the harbour, bending to the scuppers. Here comes old Mrs. Swales. She is making straight for me, and I can see, by the way she looks at me, that she wants to talk.

I have been quite touched by the change in the poor old woman. When she sat down beside me, she said in a very gentle way, “I want to say something to you, mister.”

I could see she was not at ease, so I took her poor old wrinkled hand in mine and asked her to speak fully.

So she said, leaving her hand in mine, “I’m afraid, my deary, that I must have shocked you by all the wicked things I’ve been sayin’ about the dead, and such like, for weeks past, but I didn’t mean them, and I want ye to remember that when I’m gone. We aud folks that be daffled, and with one foot abaft the krok-hooal, don’t altogether like to think of it, and we don’t want to feel scart of it, and that’s why I’ve took to makin’ light of it, so that I’d cheer up my own heart a bit. But, Lord love ye, mister, I ain’t afraid of dyin’, not a bit, only I don’t want to die if I can help it. My time must be nigh at hand now, for I be aud, and a hundred years is too much for any woman to expect. And I’m so nigh it that the Aud Woman is already whettin’ her scythe. Ye see, I can’t get out o’ the habit of caffin’ about it all at once. The chafts will wag as they be used to. Some day soon the Angel of Death will sound her trumpet for me. But don’t ye dooal an’ greet, my deary!”— for she saw that I was crying —“if she should come this very night I’d not refuse to answer her call. For life be, after all, only a waitin’ for somethin’ else than what we’re doin’, and death be all that we can rightly depend on. But I’m content, for it’s comin’ to me, my deary, and comin’ quick. It may be comin’ while we be lookin’ and wonderin’. Maybe it’s in that wind out over the sea that’s bringin’ with it loss and wreck, and sore distress, and sad hearts. Look! Look!” she cried suddenly. “There’s something in that wind and in the hoast beyont that sounds, and looks, and tastes, and smells like death. It’s in the air. I feel it comin’. Lord, make me answer cheerful, when my call comes!” She held up her arms devoutly. Her mouth moved as though she were praying. After a few minutes’ silence, she got up, shook hands with me, and blessed me, and said goodbye, and hobbled off. It all touched me, and upset me very much.

I was glad when the coastguard came along, with her spyglass under her arm. She stopped to talk with me, as she always does, but all the time kept looking at a strange ship.

“I can’t make him out,” she said. “He’s a Russian, by the look of him. But he’s knocking about in the queerest way. He doesn’t know his mind a bit. He seems to see the storm coming, but can’t decide whether to run up north in the open, or to put in here. Look there again! He is steered mighty strangely, for He doesn’t mind the hand on the wheel, changes about with every puff of wind. We’ll hear more of him before this time tomorrow.”

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