I haven’t posted on here for a long time and would have a very long story to tell about that—in fact a whole slew of stories since stories are what have keeping me away! I started this blog as an apprenticeship, to hone my writing skills for fiction. That’s why you will find a first drafts on here and on Gothic Faery Tales, my other blog, amongst the regular blog posts. I also saw this as a place to explore my interests in magic, folklore and history — themes that also deeply inform my fiction. I want to come back to this blog and could think of no batter start than to share the research behind one of my top books.
The Vampire’s Mirror was #1 in Horror and #2 in Gothic Romance on Kindle and got several excellent reviews. But here, on the Winterspells blog, I want to talk about, not the story, but the magic of mirrors.
Blame Alice Through the Looking Glass, or perhaps Snow White, but I have, since childhood, been aware of the uncanny nature of mirrors. The mirror sees things in reverse, it may reflect what we cannot see because it is behind us, or above us, or at an odd angle. It may show us the hidden side as when we hold one mirror to our face to look into another mirror at our back. The mirror suggests hidden worlds on the other side of the glass. Mirrors can be used for spying and magician’s tricks, bending our perception of reality.
“Jack in Glass”! How could he not be a Jack being all leftwards and backwards sinsiter? And how could a doppleganger be safe?
Have you ever stared at your refection in a mirror and seen yourself morph into creatures and animals and elves? Transformations abound in the mirror.
Before glass was and silver were combined by the Venetians into clear and wonderful speculums, our ancestors looked into the surface of a lake or a dish of water, a polished stone, or perhaps, as in this tale, a sheet of polished silver, to see what others saw, but they themselves could not see: their own images.
Yet all reflective thinsg were suspect…
Though metal was a superficial thing, all metals were attributed to Gods. The surface of a lake goes deep into another realm, also largely invisble to the human eye, that nevertheless yields up treasures and food. All of these qualities were mysterious and therefoe suspect in ancient times.
“The power of mirrors – or any reflective surface – to reveal what is hidden has been known since ancient times. Gazing upon shiny surfaces is one of the oldest forms of scrying, a method of divination practiced by the early Egyptians, Arabs, the Magi of Persia, Greeks and Romans. In ancient Greece, the witches of Thessaly reputedly wrote their oracles in human blood upon mirrors. The Thessalian witches are supposed to have taught Pythagoras how to divine by holding a magic mirror up to the moon. Romans who were skilled in mirror reading were called specularii.”
The Vampire’s Mirror
The Vampire’s Mirror plays with the idea that the vampire cannot be seen in the mirror. This is an interesting idea because it suggests that the Vampire has no body to reflect. He also casts no shadow. Yet he is not incorporeal to those he presy upon who not only see the vampire, but feel him and are powerfully effected by him.
Since the vampire is a predator, then the mirror must serve his predation. Therefore it must be, as in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a portal through which he passes into the victims workd and through which the victim may pass into his. The mirror can also be used as a means of enchantment.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the mirror is aligned with Vanity.
Sins of Vanity and Temptation
“Giselle wouldn’t call herself a thief, but like a magpie she was pulled toward bright objects: jewels and bangles, rings and beaded sashes, embroidered reticules and fans. The mere sight of a pair of earrings lying unattended on the dressing table would set her fingers fluttering to enclose them, secretly, in the palm of her hand, to be nonchalantly dropped in the pocket of her apron. Only cleaning up, she’d tell herself. My Lady shouldn’t leave valuable things lying around like that.”—Alyne de Winter The Vampire’s Mirror
Thieving creatures like magpies and crows love bright shiny objects. Something about objects that give off light associates them with the Devil. Perhaps because all the Devil’s works are but counterfiets of God’s Creation.
The Hero of this tale, Stefan, is unable to resist the lure of the vampire’s mirror. His beloved Analise grow enraptured with her own reflection in the glass, but also sees the vampire’s world on the other side. She sees him and he sees her….
Robert Place and I had so much fun with his first interview that we decided to give you Part 2. Robert is such a interesting man having not only designed five beautiful tarot decks, but being an occult scholar as well. So please enjoy more of our fascinating conversation.
Can you tell me what The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is about? It sounds very intriguing. Is it based on a Mystery Tradition? The art I saw looks very beautiful as well.
I started on The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery in 2001. At present, it consists only of the Fool, the 21 trumps, the ace and two of coins, the ace of swords, the ace of cups, and the ace of staffs. I also completed a set of the Fool and Trumps printed oversize with annotations in the margins and background done in a calligraphic script. I completed this for my exhibition in the Crafts and Folk Art Museum in LA in January, 2010. I made 17″ high prints of these and they were the main focus of the exhibit. They are also included in my book based on the exhibition, The Fool’s Journey: the History, Art, and Symbolism of the Tarot.
The inspiration for the deck came when I was looking at the paintings of 19th century English Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites believed that art was a spiritual or magical endeavor and toward this end they formed a mystical brotherhood of artists dedicated to recapturing the sincerity of the art of the early Renaissance—the same historic period that gave us the Tarot. In many ways they paved the way in England for the Golden Dawn. Burne-Jones, in particular, based his tall female beauties and melancholy heroes on the paintings of Botticelli and Michelangelo, two artists whose works are considered primary examples of Renaissance Neoplatonic mysticism. I noticed that Burne-Jones painted some of the same allegorical figures that are found in the Tarot such as Foolishness, Temperance, and the Wheel of Fortune. I always loved his style of painting and I wanted to complete the Tarot deck for him that he seems to have unintentionally started.
Robert Place: The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
As the deck progressed, besides being enamored with the beauty of the style, I found that it was the perfect means to express all of the insights that I had developed concerning the nature of the Tarot and its mystical message. It allowed me to bridge the gap and synthesize the Renaissance ideas expressed in the original Tarot with the broader archetypal interpretations of those images that were added by 19th century occultists.
The name of the deck comes from my belief that the Western system of seven virtues, is a yogic system designed to purify the seven soul centers, which ascend the human spine, and that have been known in the West at least from the time of Pythagoras (the 6th century BC). The World card, in particular, represents the virtue Prudence, who is the culmination of the four cardinal virtues. The other three virtues: Temperance, Strength, and Justice, were considered the parts of Prudence, and that fact helps to explain why the three are more explicitly illustrated in the Tarot. Prudence as Sophia (the Wisdom of God) was also the mother of the three Christian virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. Prudence symbolizes the enlightenment that is achieved when the virtues have completed their jobs and brought each soul center into balance and health.
I went to an exhibition of Burne-Jone’s work in Burmingham when i lived in England. His work is absolutely stunning. I can see why you would be inspired by him. He also did so much! In England even some of the small country churches have stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones. That is a perfect medium for his work with the light coming through. Come to think of it—your work would make amazing stained glass.
I use to be a stained glass apprentice for about a year when I was first out of college in the 1970s.
Burne-Jones did a lot of stained glass in the US also.
I did a search to find some of his pieces and saw some great ones in Boston and Delaware. But it turned out that his first US commission was in the Episcopal Church right here in Saugerties where I live.
(Here’s a link to the stained glass windows in Saugerties:
They are gorgeous—Angels by William Morris., the rest by Burne- Jones)
I want to explore more about symbolism with you
and how you find your inspiration in other arts like painting and films and magic.
Maybe something like:
Is there a mystical unity between your tarot themes?
Is there an alchemy in the art of Burne-Jones as there is with vampires?
There is certainly a link between vampires and the PreRaphaelites.
Did you know that John Polidori who wrote The Vampyre, was
D.G. Rossetti’s uncle? Did you know about the vampiric myth that grew up around Lizzie Siddal?
I have a screenplay half written about that.
What about the Grail legend? Is that part of your alchemy as it is of Burne-Jones?
Your themes of Saints and Angels — how do they fit in? There is a Gothic quality to your
work taken as a whole I think.
Chew chew chew
Robert Place:The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
These are good questions and I will try to answer them as best as I can.
I feel that there is a unity behind all of my Tarot decks. At first glance, this may not be obvious because my first three decks: TheAlchemical Tarot, The Angels Tarot, and the Tarot of the Saints, were based on Western mystical and religious themes, and then with the creation of The Buddha Tarot and The Vampire Tarot, I seemed to be drifting further and further away from that area.
But, my goal from the beginning was to recover the original mystical message that was expressed by the Tarot’s 15th century creators and to find ways of expressing that wisdom by illustrating its connection to popular mythology or mystical systems.
My Buddha Tarot is not just about Buddhism but how it is similar to Western mystical traditions and how this comparison helps us to better understand our own traditions. My Vampire Tarot, which although it was just published last year, was actually the second deck that I began after The Alchemical Tarot, is about Dracula and how this story is based on the Grail legend which was one to the early influences on the Tarot, and that this story in turn grew out of the shamanic practice of soul retrieval.
I believe that Edward Burne-Jones was a mystic and that his paintings were his alchemical practice. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which he belonged to, was founded in 1848 by a group of artists in England who came out of the Romantic movement and shared a romantic fascination for the art of the Middle Ages. They wanted to capture the sincerity and honest piety of the works created before the time of the Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520). A time when paintings were believed to have magical curative powers, were used in rituals to heal and protect cities, and were the inspiration for pilgrimages. They believed that their art could uplift their viewers to a higher moral state and counteract the illnesses brought about by industrialization.
Burne-Jones was a second generation member of this movement and the art critic Ruskin labeled his variation the Mythic School. He focused on a mythic Classical or Arthurian world populated by tall, pale, beautiful heroines or femme fatales, and equally beautiful armored heroes. He was a major influence on the Symbolist painters that became popular in the rest of Europe at the end of the 19th century and helped create the atmosphere that led to the revival of occultism.
Toward the end of his life, beginning in 1881, Burne-Jones worked on a large mural,”The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon.” During this period he also created a number of works depicting the legend of King Arthur, including a series of tapestries (1890-1891) designed for Morris & Company, sets and costumes for the play “King Arthur” (1895) performed at the London’s Lyceum Theater under the management of Dracula author Bram Stoker, and illustrations for Sebastian Evans’ The High History of the Holy Grail (1898). But “The Sleep of Arthur” became a personal work that he slowly perfected between other commissions. When he worked on it, he would say that he was retreating to Avalon. He finished it in 1898 and died shortly after. When I read about this, I had a strong intuition that he had achieved his goal and escaped to his inner world –escaped to Avalon.
I didn’t know that Polidori, the first author of a Vampire prose, was D.G. Rossetti’s uncle. Rossetti, of course, was Burne-Jones’ mentor and was a major influence on his style. But the vampire theme comes out of the same Romantic movement, with its obsession with the Middle Ages, the irrational, and the occult, that gave rise to the Pre-Raphaelites. I believe that the pre-Raphaelites and Burne Jones in particular influenced Bram Stoker. In Dracula, Stoker created, a strong beautiful heroine, several femme fatales, and a group of heros that were basically knights –characters that were similar to Burne-Jones’s figures. I acknowledged this by incorporating a Pre-Raphaelite style in my illustrations for my Vampire Tarot. Some of the figures are based on photos of the famous Pre-Raphaelite model Jane Morris; for example, the Mina trump.
Robert Place: Vampire Tarot
I love the Jane Morris paintings. She had a very mysterious, silent quality that suited those mystic images of women.
Rossetti first wife, Lizzie Sidall, was the artist’s primary model and in spite of their class differences he married her in 1860. With his instruction and encouragement she also became an artist. By 1862, Lizzie feared that her husband was looking for a younger muse. After her daughter was stillborn and she became pregnant again she was hopelessly depressed. She committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. Overcome with grief and romantic ideals, Rossetti placed a book containing the only copies of his poems in her grave. After seven years he had second thoughts and had her exhumed so that he could retrieve this book. Her body was said to have been in perfect condition. Her red hair had continued to grow while she was dead and now filled the coffin framing her and creating a memorable last impression. The image of the beautiful dead Lizzie surrounded in her luscious hair captured the public imagination and led to the rumors that she was actually undead. Red hair in itself is often associated with vampires. Stoker was likely to have been influenced by this description when he wrote the scene with Lucy beautifully laid out in her coffin.
Burne Jones’ son, Philip Burne-Jones, was also a painter, but his only well known painting is “The Vampire,” a portrait of a femme fatale vampire leaning over her male victim. The model for Philip’s vampire was Mrs. Patrick Campbell, an actress who in 1893 played the lead in “The Second Mrs. Tanqueray,” captured the public eye, and became famous for her beauty and talent. Philip dated her for a while, showered her with expensive presents, and painted her several times. But for the vampire portrait he worked from memory after she broke his heart by dumping him for a leading man and then a series of other lovers. In 1897, he displayed the painting at the annual summer exhibition of the New Gallery, a major show that included works by Sargent as well as Philip’s father. Alongside the painting, Philip included a poem “The Vampire” by his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, that described the foolishness of a man allowing himself to be destroyed by a heartless woman. This exhibition was held only a few months before Stoker’s Dracula was first in print.
Philp Burne-Jones: The Vampire
Philip’s painting received good reviews in London, but bad reviews later, after a New York showing. Some reporters also recognized his model, and speculation on the circumstances that led to her depiction as a vampire became the focus of gossip. During her American tour, which coincided with the American exhibition of “The Vampire,” Mrs. Campbell’s agent played up her connection to the painting. Philip, his painting, and Mrs. Campbell all came together in Chicago and the press had a field day with the story. In 1907, Porter Emerson Browne was commissioned by the actor Robert Hilliard to write a play based on the painting, which was called ” A Fool There Was.” Katherine Kaelred played the vampire and the play was carefully constructed so that it ended with a tableau that echoed the painting. The play was a popular success and influenced the burgeoning American movie industry. William Fox bought the rights to the play and created a film version, which stared Theda Bara. This role as a heartless femme fatale, which Bara continued to play in over 40 films, earned her the nickname ” the vamp.” As you can see, Pre-Raphealites, vampires, and popular imagination and culture are all intimately connected.
This was a really fascinating interview, Bob! I have long been a fan of the PreRpaelites and Dracula—-all of it and you told me things I didn’t know. Thank you Robert, it has been wonderful talking to you.
I would like to mention that Robert has a beautiful new book out:
The Fool’s Journey: The History, Art, and Symbolism of the Tarot
An 8.5″ by 11′ full color book
A PDF download is also available for only $10.00.
This article was originally published on the wonderful paranormal blog Occult View by David Dolgacious last March. Since we are moving into the spooky time of year, I thought it would be fun to re-print it on Winterspells. So, tipping my hat to David, here it is.
And please check his blog at www.occultview.com.
I was tempted to say “My name is Victoria Winter…” but instead I said this with Victoria Winter’s voice in my head:
My name is Arlene deWinter. As the resurrection of Springtime is upon us, the Vampire sleeps a little longer. Now I feel it is safe to tell you a story of Vampires little considered on our side of the pond.
Then Dracula Became a Movie Star
Few people realize that Bela Lugosi originated his character of Count Dracula on the New York stage. And had to learn his lines phonetically…
Dracula was Born in a Trunk
Vlad Tepes may have been a warlord from ancient Wallachia, infamous for his cruelty,
but Vlad Dracule was a man of the theater!
Though not the first Vampire to tread the boards of the London stage, he is certainly its star. It was he who brought his nefarious race under the spotlight, and his lustre remains undimmed for over a century.
The first literary Vampire was invented by the physician, John Polidori in 1818, during the famous snowbound ghost story contest in Swiss Alps where Mary Shelley created Dracula’s erstwhile rival, Frankenstein. Polidori’s novella was called The Vampyre; A Tale. It’s menacing antagonist, Lord Ruthven, was based on Polidori’s character assessment of the infamous poet, Lord Byron, legendary womanizer, and destroyer of souls…Not long after his book was published, to scandalous success, Polidori killed himself at the age of 26.
The Vampyre was staged many times in the 1800’s, with multiple spinoffs, much like the film versions since Bela Lugosi brought Dracula chillingly to the screen. These plays were particularly popular in Paris where they merged with the horrific Grande Guignol, and even inspired the German Opera, Der Vampyr, first presented in Leipzig in 1828.
John Polidori was uncle to the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti whose beautiful, red haired wife, Elizabeth Siddall, was his model and muse. Ten years after her tragic death from an overdose of luadanum, Rossetti had Elizabeth’s body exhumed to retrieve a volume of poetry that he had buried with her in Highgate Cemetery. The men who dug her up claimed her shining red hair filled the coffin, and that her body was still as young and lovely as the day she died. Haunted by grief, and remorse for the horrible deed he had done, Rossetti succumbed to chloral addiction and went mad.
Enough of that!
Vlad Dracule and Henry Irving
Bram Stoker himself was man of the theatre. Manager to the famous Victorian actor, Henry Irving, Stoker was the driving force behind the commercial success of the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden. Henry Irving was considered its resident genius and, like many geniuses, was a moody tyrant. Bram Stoker was completely under his spell.
Shakespeare was Irving’s specialty, and Stoker was immersed in the blood soaked tragedies, and rich poetry of the Bard of Avon on a nightly basis. His discovery of a portrait of Vlad Tepes caused an explosion in his imagination! It is not too far fetched to see in Tepes’s aquiline features, a reflection of the face of Henry Irving. Irving was known to excel at dark, brooding, villainous characters, his tall, thin frame often clothed in black as he lurked menacingly about the stage.
Dracula was published in 1897 in London. Stoker dispensed with the charming, aristocratic Byronesque Vampyre. Rather, his Dracula was creepy and repulsive in the extreme, based as he was on Stoker’s research into the Balkan folklore about Undead corpses preserved in their graves by feeding on blood of the living.
Significantly, the book, Dracula, was first reviewed in the theatre magazine, The Stage, on June 17, 1897 where it was referred to as a tour de force. Many of the classic qualities we associate with Vampires were invented by Stoker such as his fear of crucifixes (strange aversion for an impaler…) the Host, the need to sleep in his country’s soil, even sleeping all day to only come out at night, changing into a bat — all were inventions of Bram Stoker’s fertile imagination. The association of Vampires with wolves, though, is a deep part of tradition in the wolf haunted forests and mountains of Central Europe.
On its 1897 release, a staged reading of Dracula, or The UnDead, was held at the Lyceum Theatre to secure its copyright. Behind the actors loomed the set of Irving’s current production of MacBeth.Dracula was already being prepared for dramatic performance, but Irving refused to play the part. When the play was produced, it was not according to Stoker’s vision, but rather in cheap, pirated, slipshod productions in London’s theatre dives that were an embarrassment to the disappointed Stoker.
Dracula Becomes a Movie Star
Though he failed on the stage due to theatrical politics and B level productions, Dracula would be raised from impending obscurity by the new art of Cinema. The 1922 German Expressionist film, Nosferatu, would seal his future as a movie star. Despite a few alterations and name changes, the script of Nosferatu sticks very closely to the spirit of the novel, so close in fact that Stoker’s widow, Florence, was outraged at what she consider a violation of copyright, and sued the film’s producers, the Prana Film Company, and director, Friedrich Wilhelm Murneau. After a three year battle, the tenacious widow Stoker won and demanded all prints of the film be destroyed. Woe to the future of Dracula, and his fans, had her wishes been carried out to the letter!
Count Dracula refused to bow out gracefully.
After the success of Nosferatu, many more productions of Dracula were staged in London and Dublin with varying success. But, by then, Dracula had found a more responsive audience in the movies. In the 1930’s Bela Lugosi, an actor from the same part of the world as Vlad Tepes, would make him a Film Superstar. Perhaps it is Lugosi’s portrayal, a blend of the Byronic, sexy, cultured aristocrat, with the supernatural powers bequeathed to him by Stoker, that made Count Dracula truly immortal.
Before Bram Stoker, Walpurgis Night belonged to the Witches.
Pardon me for plagiarizing Wikipedia again. After dancing all night with the Faeries, my shoes are in tatters and I am worn out…
History of Walpurgis Night
Historically Walpurgisnacht is derived from various pagan spring customs. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then. This is followed by the return of light and the sun as celebrated during May Day, although bonfires and witches are more closely associated with Easter (especially in Bothnia, Finland) and bonfires alone with midsummer in the rest of Finland.
Saint Walpurga herself was a niece of Saint Boniface and, according to legend, a daughter of the Saxon prince St. Richard. Together with her brothers she travelled to Franconia, Germany, where she became a nun and lived in the convent of Heidenheim, Bavaria, which was founded by her brother Willibald. Walpurga died of an illness shortly after moving the mortal remains of her brother, Saint Winibald on 25 February 779. She is therefore listed in the Roman Martyrology under 25 February. Her relics were transferred on 1 May so that she might be buried beside Willibald, and that day carries her name in the Finnish and Swedish calendars.
A nice bit of etymology for you: Beltane, and alternate name for May Eve, that also covers the entire season between May Day and Midsummer, is named for the Pagan God Bel. Christian missionaries, in their efforts to instill distrust and fear in Pagans to herd them towards Christianity, demonized the old gods, and Bel’s Fires of luck and purification, became Bale Fires with connotations of evil. When Saint Walpurgia’s Feast Day was moved to coincide with Beltane to trick the Pagans into celebrating her martyrdom, the fires became Bon Fires. Bon means good in French.
From Germany, Land of the Brothers Grimm
In Germany, Walpurgisnacht, the night from April 30 to May 1, is the night when allegedly the witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of Spring.
Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of April 30 (May Day’s eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods…”
Brocken is the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany. It is noted for the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre and for witches’ revels which reputedly took place there on Walpurgis night.
The Brocken Spectre is a magnified shadow of an observer, typically surrounded by rainbow-like bands, thrown onto a bank of cloud in high mountain areas when the sun is low. The phenomenon was first reported on the Brocken.
—Oxford Phrase & Fable.
Perhaps it was the Brocken Spectre that inspired the Vampire…
Please click the link below.It has a surprise for you!
Walpurgis NIght and the Vampire: The Influence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Countess Bathory, La Noche de Walpurgis
Perhaps it has to do with the phases of the Moon.
It is under the rays of the moon that all life on earth is fecundated. When she shows her bright face to us, the spirits of fertility come out of the trees and hills to dance Nature into abundance. But when she shows us her dark side, spirits of the dead, and the undead, forces of blight and miscarriage come to earth. Perhaps when Bram Stoker wrote the chapters called Walpurgis Night, deleted from the published version of Dracula, the Moon was hiding behind her dark veil of stars, and ever afterwards, Walpurgis Night would belong to the Vampire.
Why else should a a Celebration of the arrival of Summer, a time for the Gods and Goddesses to marry, joy in the visible resurrection of the Green Earth, be associated with Vampires and Witches? Why should we fear, in this night of growing light, those who come through the veil from the Land of the Dead to haunt the living?
Maybe the smaller span of darkness makes the Vampires more intense. They become vicious in their need to slake their thirst quickly, before the dawn brightens the sky all too soon.
Watch this little film clip, based on the deleted chapters of Dracula, titled Dracula’s Guest, and see what can happen when the unwary traveler ventures into the forest on Walpurgis Night:
In case you have decided to stay in on this Night, for there is but a silver sickle of moon in the sky, I have included the text of Dracula’s Guest for your frightful enjoyment….
NOTE: DRACULA’S GUEST was excised from the original DRACULA MSS by his publisher because of the length of the original book MSS. It was published as a short story in 1914, two years after Stoker’s death. Enjoy!
NEW WAVE PUBLISHERS 2103 N. LIBERTY STREET PORTLAND OR 97217-4971 (503) 286-5577
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 Delbruck (the maitre d’hotel 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 realized 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 sniff 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 windswept 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, “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 an 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 over us.It was only a breath, however, and more 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.
“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.”
“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. Roughly I gathered that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves; but 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 so 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 recognized 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 drafting rapidly across the sky from north to south at a great height.There were signs of a 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 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 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 I 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 were 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
SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH
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 myssterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!
Walpurgis Night was 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.
And now a perfect tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered across it; and this time the storm bore on its icy wings, not snow, but great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have come from the thongs of Balearic slingers–hailstones that beat down leaf and branch and made the shelter of the cypresses of no more avail than though their stems were standing corn. At the first I had rushed to the nearest tree;but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only spot that seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained a certain amount of protection from the beating of the hailstones, for now they only drove against me as they ricochetted from the ground and the side of the marble.
As I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the heavens. In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my my eyes turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier. As the thunder broke overhead, I was grasped as by the hand of a giant and hurled out into the storm. The whole thing was so sudden that, before I could realize the shock, moral as well as physical, I found the hailstones beating me down. 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 that surmounted the tomb and to pour through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble, as in a burst of flame. The dead woman rose for a moment of agony while she was lapped in the flame, and her bitter scream of pain was drowned in the thundercrash. The last thing I heard was this mingling of dreadful sound,as again I was seized in the giant grasp and dragged away, while the hailstones beat on me and the air around seemed reverberant with the howling of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague, white, moving mass,as if all the graves around me had sent out the phantoms of their sheeted dead, and that they were closing in on me through the white cloudiness of the driving hail.
Gradually there came a sort of vague beginning of consciousness, then a sense of weariness that was dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing, but slowly my senses returned. My feet seemed positively racked with pain, yet I could not move them. They seemed to be numbed. There was an icy feeling at the back of my neck and all down my spine, and my ears, like my feet, were dead yet in torment; but there was in my breast a sense of warmth which was by comparison delicious.It was as a nightmare–a physical nightmare, if one may use such an expression; for some heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.
This period of semilethargy seemed to remain a long time, and as it faded away I must have slept or swooned. Then came a sort of loathing, like the first stage of seasickness, and a wild desire to be free of something–I knew not what.A vast stillness enveloped me, as though all the world were asleep or dead–only broken by the low panting as of some animal close to me. I felt a warm rasping at my throat, then came a consciousness of the awful truth which chilled me to the heart and sent the blood surging up through my brain. Some great animal was lying on me and now licking my throat. I feared to stir, for some instinct of prudence bade me lie still; but the brute seemed to realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head. Through my eyelashes I saw above me the two great flaming eyes of a gigantic wolf. Its sharp white teeth gleamed in the gaping red mouth, and I could feel its hot breath fierce and acrid upon me.
For another spell of time I remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by a yelp, renewed again and again. Then seemingly very far away, I heard a “Holloa! holloa!” as of many voices calling in unison. Cautiously I raised my head and looked in the direction whence the sound came, but the cemetery blocked my view. The wolf still continued to yelp in a strange way, and a red glare began to move round the grove of cypresses, as though following the sound. As the voices drew closer, the wolf yelped faster and louder. I feared to make either sound or motion. Nearer came the red glow over the white pall which stretched into the darkness around me. Then all at once from beyond the trees there came at a trot a troop of horsemen bearing torches. The wolf rose from my breast and made for the cemetery. I saw one of the horsemen (soldiers by their caps and their long military cloaks) raise his carbine and take aim. A companion knocked up his arm,and I heard the ball whiz over my head. He had evidently taken my body for that of the wolf. Another sighted the animal as it slunk away, and a shot followed. Then, at a gallop, the troop rode forward–some towards me, others following the wolf as it disappeared amongst the snow-clad cypresses.
As they drew nearer I tried to move but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that went 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 some brandy was poured down my throat; it put vigor 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 call to one another. They drew together, uttering frightened exclamations; and the lights flashed as the others came pouring out of the cemetery pell-mell, like men possessed. When the further ones came close to us, those who were around me asked them eagerly, “Well, have you found him?”
The reply rang out hurriedly, “No! no! Come away quick-quick! This is no place to stay, and on this of all nights!”
“What was it?” was the question, asked in all manner of keys.The answer came variously and all indefinitely as though the men were moved by some common impulse to speak yet were restrained by some common fear from giving their thoughts.
“It–it–indeed!” gibbered one, whose wits had plainly given out for the moment.
“A wolf–and yet not a wolf!” another put in shudderingly.
“No use trying for him without the sacred bullet,” a third remarked in a more ordinary manner.
“Serve us right for coming out on this night!Truly we have earned our thousand marks!” were the ejaculations of a fourth.
“There was blood on the broken marble,” another said after a pause, “the lightning never brought that there. And for him — 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 pierced. What does it all mean? We should never have found him but for the yelping of the wolf.”
“What became of it?” asked the man who was holding up my head and who seemed the least panic-stricken of the party, for his hands were steady and without tremor. On his sleeve was the chevron of a petty officer.
“It went home,” answered the man, whose long face was pallid and who actually shook with terror as he glanced around him fearfully. “There are graves enough there in which it may lie. Come, comrades–come quickly! Let us leave this cursed spot.”
The officer raised me to a sitting posture, as he uttered a word of command; then several men placed me upon a horse.He sprang to the saddle behind me, took me in his arms, gave the word to advance; and, turning our faces away from the cypresses, we rode away in swift military order.
As yet my tongue refused its office, and I was perforce 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 broad daylight, and to the north a red streak of sunlight was reflected like a path of blood over the waste of snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing of what they had seen, except that they found an English stranger, guarded by a large dog.
“Dog! that was no dog,” cut in the man who had exhibited such fear. “I think I know a wolf when I see one.”
The young officer answered calmly, “I said a dog.”
“Dog!” reiterated the other ironically.It was evident that his courage was rising with the sun; and, pointing to me, he said, “Look at his throat. Is that the work of a dog, master?”
Instinctively I raised my hand to my throat, and as I touched it I cried out in pain. The men crowded round to look, some stooping down from their saddles;and again there came the calm voice of the young officer, “A dog, as I said. If aught else were said we should only be laughed at.”
I was then mounted behind a trooper, and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here we came across a stray carriage into which I was lifted , and it was driven off to the Quatre Saisons–the young officer accompanying me, whilst a trooper followed with his horse, and the others rode off to their barracks.
When we arrived, Herr Delbruck rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me, that it was apparent he had been watching within. Taking me by both hands he solicitously led me in.The officer saluted me and was turning to withdraw, when I recognized his purpose and insisted that he should come to my rooms. Over a glass of wine I warmly thanked him and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was more than glad, and that Herr Delbruck had at the first taken steps to make all the searching party pleased; at which ambiguous utterance the maitre d’hotel smiled, while the officer plead duty and withdrew.
“But Herr Delbruck,” I enquired, “how and why was it that the soldiers searched for me?”
He shrugged his shoulders, as if in depreciation of his own deed, as he replied, “I was so fortunate as to obtain leave from the commander of the regiment in which I serve, to ask for volunteers.”
“But how did you know I was lost?” I asked.
“The driver came hither with the remains of his carriage, which had been upset when the horses ran away.”
“But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers merely on this account?”
“Oh, no!” he answered, “but even before the coachman arrived, I had this telegram from the Boyar whose guest you are,” and he took from his pocket a telegram which he handed to me, and I read:
Bistritz. Be careful of my guest–his safety is most precious to me. Should aught happen to him, or if he be missed, spare nothing to find him and ensure his safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often dangers from snow and wolves and night. Lose not a moment if you suspect harm to him. I answer your zeal with my fortune. –Dracula.
As I held the telegram in my hand,the room seemed to whirl around me,and if the attentive maitre d’hotel had not caught me,I think I should have fallen. There was something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to imagine, that there grew on me a sense of my being in some way the sport of opposite forces–the mere vague 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, in the very nick of time, a message that took me out of the danger of the snow sleep and the jaws of the wolf.
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