The ESL Department

Dracula’s Guest By Bram Stoker

(This is the opening chapter of the famous novel; it was not included when the book was first published, and never has been. This version is in simplified English.)

When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on the city of Munich, and the air was full of the joy of early summer. Just as we were about to leave, Herr Delbruck (the maitre d'hotel of the Four Seasons Hotel, where I was staying) came down to our carriage and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the driver, still keeping his hand on the handle of the carriage door:

"Remember, you must be 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 a strong "Ja, mein Herr," and, touching his hat, drove our horse carriage off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after signaling him to stop:

"Tell me, Johann, what night is tonight?"

He made the sign of the cross as he answered: "Walpurgis Nacht." Then he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing, and looked at it, with a frown on his face and a little impatient movement of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay, and so I waved my hand at him to proceed, and got myself comfortable again in the carriage, saying nothing further. He started off rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses seemed to pick up their heads and sniff the air suspiciously. When they did that, I often looked around in alarm. The road was deserted, the landscape empty and uninteresting, for we were crossing a sort of high, windy table of land. As we drove, I saw a road that looked little used, and which seemed to drop through a small, winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of offending him, I called Johann to stop -- and when he had, I told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all kinds of excuses, and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This made me quite curious, so I asked him various questions. He answered these with difficulty, 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 an answer he seemed to throw himself off his seat, so quickly did he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands and asked me not to go. There was just enough English mixed in with his German for me to understand him. He seemed always just about to tell me something -- something which obviously frightened him -- but each time he stopped himself, saying only, "Walpurgis Nacht!" as he made the sign of the cross.

I tried to argue with him, but it was difficult to argue with a man when I did not know his language. The advantage was certainly with him, for although he tried to speak in English, of a very crude and broken kind, he always got excited and changed into his native tongue -- and every time he did so, he looked at his watch. Then the horses became nervous, sniffing the air again. At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a frightened way, he rushed forward, took them by the bridles and led them on ahead a short distance, away from the carriage. I followed, and asked why he had done this. For an answer he crossed himself, pointed first to the spot we had left and then to the other road, and said, first in German, then in English: "Buried them -- them what killed themselves."

I remembered the old custom of burying suicides at crossroads. "Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting!" But I still could not understand why the horses were frightened.

While we were talking, we heard a sort of sound -- something like the bark of a dog. It was far away; but the horses got very restless, and Johann had a difficult time quieting 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 a long time since 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."

While he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds moved 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 a kind of warning than a fact, for the sun came out brightly again. Johann lifted his hand to cover his eyes from the sun, looked at the horizon and said:

"The storm of snow, he comes before long time." Then he looked at his watch again, and, holding his reins firmly -- for the horses were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads -- he climbed up to his seat as if the time had come for continuing on our journey.

I felt a little bit unwilling to leave, and did not get into the carriage.

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

Again he crossed himself and said a quick prayer, before he answered: "It is unholy."

"What is unholy?" I inquired.

"The village."

"Then there is a village?"

"No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years." My curiosity was growing.

"But you said there was a village."

"There was."

"Where is it now?"

Then he burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not quite exactly understand what he said, but the meaning was that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves; and sounds were heard under the ground, and when the graves were opened, men and women were found still full of life, their mouths red with blood. And so, in a hurry to save their lives (indeed, 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 not -- not something else. He was obviously afraid to speak the last words. As he proceeded with his story, he grew more and more excited. It seemed as if his imagination had gotten control of him, and he ended the story in a state of total fear -- white-faced, perspiring, trembling and looking around, as if expecting that some terrible presence would appear there in the bright sunshine on the open road. Finally, in desperation to make me understand, he cried:

"Walpurgis Nacht!" and pointed to the carriage for me to get in. My desire to remain only increased 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 still open. I took from the seat my wooden walking stick -- which I always carry on my trips -- and closed the door, pointing back to Munich, and said, "Go home, Johann. Walpurgis Nacht doesn't concern Englishmen."

The horses were now more nervous than ever, and Johann was trying to hold them in, while excitedly begging me not to do anything so foolish. I pitied the poor fellow, he was so deeply concerned; but at the same time 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, and so he jabbered away in his native German. It began to be tiring. After giving the direction, "Home!" I turned to go down the cross-road into the valley.

Finally losing patience with me, Johann turned his horses back towards Munich. I stopped for a moment and looked after him. He went slowly along the road for a while; then there came over the top of the hill a tall, thin man. When he came up near the horses, they began to jump and kick wildly, then to scream with terror. Johann could not hold them; they escaped down the road, running away madly. I watched them disappear out of sight, then looked for the stranger -- but I found that he, too, was gone. With a light heart I turned and walked down the side road through the valley to which Johann had objected. There was not the slightest reason, that I could see, for his objection; and so I walked happily for a couple of hours without thinking of time or distance, and without seeing a person or a house. As far as the area was concerned, it was complete desolation. But I did not notice this particularly until, turning a bend in the road, I came to an isolated line of trees; then I realized that I had been aware, but unconsciously, of 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 now considerably colder than it had been at the start of my walk; the wind moving through the trees was making a kind of sighing sound around me, while now and then, high overhead, the wind seemed to be much louder; a sort of distant roar. Looking up I noticed great thick clouds moving rapidly across the sky from north to south at a great height, probably a sign of a coming storm. I was a little chilly, and, thinking that it was from sitting down after the exercise of walking, I resumed my journey.

The land I passed through was now much more picturesque. There were no particular objects of any great interest that a person might notice, just a pleasant, charming beauty. I took little notice of time, and it was only when the growing darkness of the evening sky forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I should find my way home. The brightness of day had gone. The air was cold, and there were now more clouds drifting high overhead. They were accompanied by a sort of far-away rushing sound, the kind of sound made by a violent wind, through which seemed to come occasionally 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, however, so I continued on, and soon afterwards came on a wide area of open country, enclosed by hills all around. Their sides were covered with trees which spread down to the valley, covering in places some of the smaller hills and hollows which could be seen here and there. I followed with my eye the winding of the road, and saw that it curved close to one of the thickest of these groups of trees and then disappeared behind it.

As I looked, there came a cold shiver in the air, and snow began to fall. I thought of the miles and miles of empty country I had passed, and then hurried on to take shelter in a wooded area ahead. Darker and darker grew the sky, and faster and heavier fell the snow, until the earth before and around me was a shining white carpet, the edges of which, in the distance, were now invisible, lost in the falling, blowing snow. The road here was of poor quality, and its borders badly marked, so that after a little while I found that I must have strayed from it, for I could feel no hard surface underfoot, my feet seeming to sink instead in the grass and soft ground. Then the wind grew stronger and blew with ever increasing force, forcing me almost to run in front of it. The air became ice-cold, and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so thickly and blowing around me so rapidly that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the sky was torn apart by bright lightning, and in the flashes of white light I could see ahead of me a great mass of trees, all heavily covered with snow.

I was soon under the shelter of the trees, and there, where it was quieter than out in the open, I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Soon the blackness of the storm had become merged with the darkness of the night. More time passed, and then the storm seemed to be passing away; there now came only occasional fierce blasts of wind. At such moments the strange sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.

Now and again, through the great mass of drifting black clouds, came a brief ray of moonlight, which lit up a. wide area around me, and showed me that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and pine trees. As the snow had stopped falling, I walked out from under the trees which had sheltered me and began to investigate more closely. I thought it possible that, among so many old stone walls and foundations as I had passed, there might still be standing a house in which, although in ruins, I could find some sort of shelter for a while. As I passed along the outside edge of the trees, I saw that a low wall encircled it, and following this I soon found an opening. Here the cypresses were in two straight rows, forming a kind of alley leading up to a square mass of stone -- a building of some sort. Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds covered the moon, and so I moved up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of finding shelter, and so I continued blindly on.

A few moments later, I stopped, for there was a sudden quiet. The storm had passed suddenly and mysteriously, it seemed. My heart, too, seemed to have stopped beating for a moment in the strange silence. But this was only for a moment again moonlight broke through the clouds, showing me that I was in a graveyard, and that the square object in front of 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 great rush of wind the storm had apparently begun again, with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked, and felt the cold grow even more upon me, until it seemed to take my heart in its frozen grip. Then, as the bright shower of moonlight continued to fall on the marble tomb, the storm became even stronger, as if it was returning to its earlier violence. Driven forward by some sort of fascination, I approached the tomb to see what it was exactly, and why such a thing stood alone in such a place. I walked around it, and read, over the door, in German:

COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ IN STYRIA SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH 1801

On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven completely through the solid marble for the structure was composed of just a few huge blocks of stone was a great iron spike or stake. I then went to the back of the tomb, and saw, in large Russian letters:

THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST

There was something so strange and unreal about the whole thing that it made me feel weak and afraid, almost sick. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann's advice. Then the thought struck me: Johann's words, only this time with an effect of shock and mysterious fear . . . tonight was Walpurgis Nacht!

Walpurgis Nacht, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was present when graves were opened and the dead came out and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water celebrated. This same place the driver had especially avoided. This was the depopulated village of many centuries ago . . . this was where the suicide lay buried . . . and this was the place where I was alone defenseless, shivering with cold in deep snow with a wild storm ready to attack me again! It took all my education, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse completely with fear and fright.

And now an absolute tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses ran across it; and this time the storm carried with it, not snow, but great hailstones, which fell with such violence that they might have been shot from guns hailstones that beat down leaves and branches and made the shelter of the cypresses no more useful than if they had been rows of corn instead of trees. At first I had rushed to the nearest tree to escape the hail; but I soon had to leave it and seek the only spot that seemed to offer relief, the deep doorway of the marble tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained some protection from the beating of the hailstones, for now they only struck me as they ricocheted from the ground and the walls of the doorway.

As I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that terrible storm, and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of lightning that lit up the entire sky. In that moment, I saw and I must swear that I saw as my eyes were turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman, with youthful skin and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a wooden funeral bed. As thunder exploded again in the sky, I was taken as if by the hand of a giant and thrown outside into the storm. The whole thing was so sudden that, before I realized the shock, both mental and physical, I found the hailstones again beating down upon me. At the same time I had a strange, dominating feeling that I was not alone. I looked towards the tomb. Just then there came another blinding flash, which seemed to strike the iron stake on top of the tomb and then to smash directly through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble stones, as in a burst of flame and fire. The dead woman rose for a moment with a look of agony on her face, surrounded in flames, and her bitter scream of pain was drowned in the crash of thunder and the noise of falling blocks of stone. The last thing I heard was this mixing of terrible sounds, as again I was thrown violently outside, while the hailstones hit me and the air around me seemed filled with the cries of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague, shapeless, moving mass, as if all the graves around me had released their dead phantoms and they were now approaching me through the white storm of hail.

Gradually there came a sort of vague feeling of waking up; then a sense of exhaustion that was dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing; but slowly my senses returned. My feet seemed to be burning with pain, yet I could not move them. There was an icy feeling at the back of my neck and all down my back, and my ears, like my feet, were dead, yet in painful agony; but there was in my chest a feeling of warmth which was, by comparison, delicious. It was a nightmare a physical nightmare not one of sleep, but of wakefulness, as I realized that some great heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.

This period of semi-consciousness seemed to remain a long time, and as it died away I must have either slept, or fainted. Then came a sort of inner anger, almost like nausea or the first stage of seasickness, as I awoke again, and then a strong desire to be free from something of what, I did not know. A great silence surrounded me, as if all the world were asleep, or dead broken only by the heavy breathing of someone, or something, as of an animal close to me. I felt a warm rubbing at my throat and then I came fully awake with the realization of the awful truth, which froze my heart and sent the blood pounding into my brain: Some great animal was lying on me and now licking my throat! I was afraid to move I felt that lying still was my only possible defense, but the beast seemed to realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head. Afraid to open my eyes more than a tiny bit, I saw through my eyelashes the two great flaming eyes of a gigantic wolf above me. Its sharp white teeth shone in its open red mouth, and I could feel its hot breath, strong and bitter, upon me.

For another period of time I remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by a yelp, repeated again and again. Then, seemingly very far away, I heard shouts men's voices, many of them, calling out "Hello! Hello!" together. Carefully I raised my head and looked in the direction of the sounds, but the cemetery blocked my view. The wolf continued to yelp in a strange way, while an orange light began to move through the trees, as though following the wolf's cries. As the voices came closer, the wolf yelped faster and more loudly. I feared making either sound or movement. Nearer came the orange light, over the white blanket of snow which stretched into the darkness around me. Then all at once from beyond the trees there came at a trot a group of horsemen carrying torches. The wolf rose from my chest and ran in among the cemetery stones. I saw one of the horsemen they were all soldiers, with caps and long military coats raise his rifle and take aim at me! Before I could cry out "No!" a companion knocked up his arm, and I heard the shot and then the bullet whizz over my head. He had apparently taken my body for that of the wolf. Another soldier sighted the animal as it sneaked away, and a shot went off again. Then, at a gallop, the group rode forward some towards me, others following the wolf as it disappeared among the snow-covered cypresses.

As they drew nearer I tried to move, but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that was going on around me. Two or three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and knelt beside me. One of them raised my head, and placed his hand over my heart.

"Good news, comrades!" he cried. "His heart still beats!"

Then brandy was poured down my throat; it put strength into me, and I was able to open my eyes fully and look around. Lights and shadows were moving among the trees, and I heard men calling to one another something had been found. They drew together, uttering frightened exclamations; and then the lights flashed as all of them came pouring out of the cemetery rapidly, like men suddenly gone crazy. When they had all come up close to us, those who had been with me asked them excitedly:

"Well, have you found him?" The answer came back: "No! No! Come away quick quick! This is no place to stay, not tonight, of all nights!"

"What was it?" was the question, asked by a dozen different voices. Several answers came back, none clear, all of them indefinite, as though the men were unable or afraid to give words to such awful thoughts.

"It it I can't describe it!" said one man excitedly, who clearly had lost his senses for the moment.

"A wolf - and yet not a wolf!" another tried, his voice shaking with fear.

"No use trying to kill him without a sacred bullet, blessed by a priest," a third man remarked, without emotion.

"What do you expect, coming here, and on Walpurgis Nacht! We have certainly earned our thousand marks!" said a fourth man.

"There was blood on the broken marble stones!" said another after a short pause. "The lightning surely didn't do that. And as for him" pointing to me "Is he safe? Look at his throat! See, comrades, the wolf has been lying on him and keeping his blood warm."

The officer looked at my throat and replied: "He is all right; the skin is not cut. What does it all mean? We would never have found him if not for the yelping of the wolf."

"What became of it?" asked the man who was holding up my head, and who seemed to be the calmest of the group, for his hands and voice were steady, not shaking so much like the others'. He was wearing the insignia of an officer.

"It went to its home," answered the man, whose long face was white, and who now actually shook with terror as he looked around him fearfully.

"There are enough graves in there" he nodded in the direction of the cemetery "in which it can hide. Come, comrades come quickly! Let us leave this cursed place!"

The officer raised up to a sitting position, as he gave a command; then several men placed me upon a horse. He climbed up on the saddle behind me, held me with his arms, then gave the word to advance; and, turning our faces away from the cypresses, we rode away in quick, military order.

I still could say nothing, and so remained silent. I must have fallen asleep, for the next thing I remembered was finding myself standing up, supported by a soldier on each side of me. It was almost full daylight, and to the east a red line of sunlight was reflected, like a path of blood, over the frozen snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing of what they had seen, except that they had found an English stranger, guarded by a large dog. "Dog? That was no dog!" interrupted one of the men. "I think I know a wolf when I see one!"

The young officer answered calmly: "I said it was a dog."

"Dog?" repeated the other ironically. It was clear that his courage was rising with the sun, with the safety of daylight; pointing to me, he said, "Look at his throat. Is that the work of a dog, sir?"

I immediately raised my hand to my throat, and as I touched it I cried out in pain. The men crowded around me to look, some leaning down from their saddles; and again there came the calm voice of the officer:

"A dog, as I said. If anything else is said, we will only be laughed at." I was then put on a horse behind another soldier, and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here the soldiers obtained an unused carriage, into which I was lifted, and it was driven off to the Quatre Saisons the young officer accompanying me, with a soldier following on horseback, while the others went back to their barracks.

When we arrived, Herr Delbruck rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me, that it was clear he had been waiting for us, watching from a window. Taking me by both hands he began to lead me carefully inside. The officer saluted me and turned to leave, but I insisted that he come to my room. Over a glass of wine I gratefully thanked him and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was glad to have found me in time, and that Herr Delbruck had arranged things with the search party to make them all pleased; at which the maitre d'hotel smiled. Then the officer said goodbye, saying he had to return to duty, and left.

"But Herr Delbruck," I asked, "how and why did the soldiers happen to search for me?"

He shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that what he had done was of little importance, as he replied:

"I served in their regiment once, and merely had to ask the commander for volunteers."

"But how did you know I was lost?" I asked.

"The driver came back and told us what you had done gone off alone."

"But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers only because of that?"

"Oh, no!" he answered. "Even before the driver arrived, I had received this telegram from the gentleman whose guest you are," and saying this he took from his pocket a telegram, which he handed to me. It read:

Be careful of my guest his safety is most important to me. Should anything happen to him, or if he is missed, do everything to find him and assure his safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often dangers from snow and wolves and dark nights. Lose not a moment if you suspect harm to him. I answer your service with my fortune. Count Dracula

As I held the telegram in my hand, the room seemed to spin around me; and if the attentive maitre d'hotel had not caught me, I think I would have fallen. There was something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to imagine, that there grew in me a sense of being in some way the object the toy, almost of opposite, contradictory forces the mere idea of which seemed in a way to paralyze me. I was certainly under some form of mysterious protection. From a distant country had come, at the very last minute, a message that took me out of the danger of the snow-sleep and the jaws of the wolf.