فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Chapter four

Dracula’s Village

The next morning it was Mania who served the two men breakfast. Rodolfo was nowhere to be seen. Concerned, Alfred asked Mania where he was, but she was not one to waste energy on words.

“Rodolfo sick.”

“Oh, dear, poor fellow. It’s the climate, awfully damp. Almost as bad as England. Well, give him our regards, will you?”

By the time he had finished, Mania had already shuffled out of the room.

“A jolly nice chap Rodolfo. Takes life a bit too seriously, but…”

“Alfred, don’t dead people usually look sort of grey and… well… lifeless?”

“Don’t ask me. You’re the expert on death, old boy. I like to avoid it myself. Makes me feel rather insecure.”

“The Count had red cheeks, as if he were alive. How very strange!”

“He looked as dead as a doornail to me. Probably put rouge on him. Undertakers like to have their customers looking their best on the ‘big day’.”

“Yes, maybe. By the way, I had a funny dream last night. We were at the Dracula Cemetery digging up the Count.”

“That was no dream, old boy. It really happened.”

“No, no. Wait! We’d stopped for a rest and you were sitting on a gravestone eating a sandwich…”

“Eating a sandwich? I’d never eat a sandwich sitting on a gravestone!”

“I know you wouldn’t. It was only a dream. Anyway, suddenly the coffin lid began to open… very slowly, and out came long white fingers with pointed nails followed by the head of the Count, his eyes shining in the moonlight. When he was half out, he looked up at us, and his mouth opened in a broad smile and I could see his teeth dripping with blood. Suddenly, he spoke in his funny Romanian accent, ‘Welcome, my friends. I am happy….’ But before he had time to finish the sentence, there was a horrendous screech and down flew a vampire bat, which landed on his shoulder. It was the screech that woke me up. Very unfortunate. I don’t have many dreams and I really wanted to see how this one would end.”

“I’m rather glad you didn’t. You said ‘scream’. About what time?”

“I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I lit a candle to read a bit of Edgar and I happened to look at my watch. It was precisely 2.34. Why?”

“Well, at about that time I heard a scream too. A long blood-chilling scream that seemed to rise from the very heart of the castle. It sounded hollow, as if it was coming from the bottom of a well. Quite disturbing!”

“Yes, it was, rather. It hasn’t affected your appetite though.”

“Quite the opposite. I haven’t had an appetite like this for years. I do recommend this fishy stuff. Very tasty with brown bread and butter.”

“Alfred, old chap, this whole business is awfully good fun, isn’t it? Screams in the night. Ghosts on white horses. What next?”

“I must say you have an odd idea of fun. As for ghosts on horses, I’m not convinced. Though the resemblance was quite astonishing, I must say.”

“Well, I suggest we go into the village and try to get some information from the locals…just as soon as you’ve had your fill of that fishy looking stuff. Ugh!”

“You should try it, old boy. Absolutely delicious. Ah, here’s Gregory. I say, Gregory, would you be a good chap and run us into the village today? Lord Ernest and I feel like seeing a bit of the local colour.”

“Of course, Sir Aleferd.”

“I suppose you’ve noticed, Ernest, that I’ve joined the aristocracy. Sir Alfred… it sounds rather good actually… Sir Alfred… em?”

The village was miles from anywhere, cut off from the rest of the world by tall, snow-topped mountains. It was pouring with rain and the main street was deserted, apart from the occasional wet bundle running from one doorway to another. They decided to go straight for the inn.

Ernest pushed open the door and entered a dimly lit room full of heavy wooden tables, where some of the locals were drinking and talking. An oil lamp hung from the wooden ceiling. When Gregory and the Englishmen entered, silence fell like a heavy cloud. Alfred raised his hand and smiled at the silent watchers.

“Good day to you all. Frightful weather, isn’t it? Jolly fine inn! My compliments to the landlord. Ah, my dear sir. The barman, I suppose.”

A large man with a red face and white apron was standing by a barrel.

“Yes?”

“I’d like to buy these fine fellows a drink. And if you have a moment, I’d be grateful if you could give us some information. I’m a journalist, and my friend here is a historian, and we’re writing a history of the Dracula family.”

At the sound of Dracula, heads turned towards the foreigners.

“You’d better ask some of them.”

The barman indicated the drinkers at the tables.

“Now, who’d like to have a little chat about the Dracula family?”

No one answered. After a minute or so, a young man with fiery red hair rose unsteadily to his feet.

“You mean the ‘vampire family’. I’ll tell you about them. Come over here and sit down,”

Ernest and Alfred pulled up two stools and sat opposite the red-haired man, who seemed a bit drunk.

“Jolly nice of you, old chap.”

“The Count likes human blood. Especially the blood of young women, just like his wife’s, who died mysteriously years ago.”

“What do you mean ‘mysteriously’?”

“She was found dead with tooth marks on her neck. It is believed that they were done by her husband. He killed her then, just as he killed my sister last night.”

“What did you say? Last night?”

“Yes, and she’s still up there, with the marks on her neck for all the world to see. Count Dracula may be dead, but he can still kill. My sister, my beautiful sister, she’s dead and I’m certain that he killed her.”

The man began to sob into his drink.

“Steady on, old chap. Sorry to hear about your sister. But these are quite strong accusations. Have you any proof?”

Just then an old man, with a country face, spoke up from the next table.

“That man doesn’t know what he’s saying. He’s from another village. The Count was no vampire. He was a good man. He loved the people of the village. I’ll never forget the winter of ‘82’. It started to snow in September and didn’t stop until April. The people were starving. What did the Count do? He opened up his stores to the people and kept all of us alive. He nearly starved to death himself. The Count is no vampire.”

“Very interesting! So, how do you explain the deaths and the teeth marks.”

The man stopped for a moment and thought.

“The vampire bat.”

Ernest suddenly showed interest. He had learnt the word for vampire bat in Romanian.

‘What’s that about vampire bat?”

Alfred told him what the old man had said.

“I think we should go and see this young girl. I say, old fellow, you said your sister was killed by the Count. You wouldn’t care to prove it, would you?”

The drunken young man got to his feet and dragged them to the staircase. They stumbled up, the man talking to himself all the time.

“We had to bring her here. She was very ill. Coughing blood. This was the nearest village with a doctor, Dr Magorsky, but…”

They reached the bedroom door. Inside, they could see the body of a young girl laid out on a bed with a sheet covering the lower part of her body. A woman of about forty was crying beside the bed. On the other side of the bed, an old man in a black suit was gathering up some surgical instruments.

The drunken man fell into the room.

“Look! Look at the work of the vampire Count!”

Alfred and Ernest saw a beautiful pale face. On her neck were two red dots about an inch apart. The old man turned angrily at the intruders.

“Who are you? Get out of here at once.”

“They’re friends of mine, Doctor. They didn’t believe that…”

“Well, now you know what a devil the Count was… and still is; you can leave.”

“Well, thank you, Doctor. I hope we shall have the pleasure again.”

Alfred wished to get out as quickly as possible. Ernest, on the other hand, was quietly looking around the room. Alfred couldn’t keep his eyes off the bloodless girl.

“I say, Ernest old chap. I think I need a drink.”

At the table in the inn below, Ernest was thinking.

“I didn’t like the Doctor at all. Nasty piece of work. Definitely not a gentleman. Did notice that scratch on his hand?”

“I don’t know what you’re saying, old boy. As soon as we’ve had this drink I suggest we get back to the castle.”

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