فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Chapter nine

The Will

Back at the castle, Rodolfo immediately went to tell his old mother the news and they all gathered around the fire, while Alfred read the will, translating it for Ernest as he went.

“In this, my last will and testament, I wish to undo a wrong I committed many years ago. I married a good and kind woman below my position, my excuse being that like all men, I needed human warmth and comfort. My greatest crime was being ashamed of it and never recognising the fruit of that marriage, my son, Rodolfo. In this will I ask his forgiveness and leave everything to him, declaring that he has the right to call himself Count Dracula. As for my first-born, the unfortunate Radu, I know that Rodolfo will take care of him as long as he lives.

I have taken this will to my grave, with the knowledge that if it is ever found, it will be because the Dracula name has been cleared of all the lies spread by that evil Doctor ‘Lover’ Magorsky.

I wish to thank Alfred Sackville-Jones and Lord Ernest Deboy for helping my son Rodolfo to get what is rightfully his. I can now rest in peace.

Count Vlad Dracula.”

Alfred looked up from the handwritten letter with the Dracula seal and the Count’s elaborate signature at the bottom.

“Well, Rodolfo old fellow, we shall have to call you Count from now on.”

Rodolfo was so overjoyed that he got up and lifted his ancient mother into the air and kissed her a hundred times on her wrinkled old face so that she actually smiled. Gregory too was jumping up and down, doing some sort of strange Romanian dance. Having put his mother down, Rodolfo then came and gave Alfred and Ernest kisses on both cheeks.

“May I suggest, Count, that we open one of the late Count’s excellent bottles of German wine? I think this calls for a celebration.”

So, the five of them celebrated to the early hours. They even got Ernest to join in singing some traditional Romanian songs. Of course, Alfred knew that many dangers lay ahead, but he did not wish to spoil the fun.

Next morning, as usual, Alfred first said good morning to the portrait of the Count, whose cheeks were all rosy red, as if he too had drunk a little too much the night before. Then, he looked out of the window over the castle walls across to the river and down Dracula Valley. The storm was over, but the snow was at least two feet deep. Ernest was still fast asleep. Now that he had no coffins to visit or vampire bats to see, the exciting part was over for him. Alfred shook him.

“Wake up, old boy!”

“Alfred really, why do you always have to interrupt my dream at the most exciting moment? I can see I’ll never get to the end.”

“Come on. We’ve got a long day ahead of us. First, we’ve got to bring these documents to the authorities. And I’m sure that the Doctor’s men are already on the road and will probably do anything to stop us.”

The snow was too deep for the carriage, so Rodolfo rode Warrior, while Alfred and Ernest took a carriage horse each. As they were not sure that they would be returning to the Castle, they took a bag full of their belongings and said goodbye to Mania and Gregory, who both had tears in their eyes. Alfred paid one last visit to their room and said goodbye to the portrait on the wall. He was almost certain he saw the lips move.

As they rode out of Dracula’s Castle, the silence was immense. All that could be heard was the muffled sounds of the river near the cemetery where the waterfall was. About a mile out, Alfred turned to Rodolfo.

“If the Doctor’s men try to attack us, where is the most likely spot?”

“Either where the valley narrows or where we have to cross the river about a mile out of Vilcea.”

They said little, just kept their eyes on the hills and trees around them where a man with a gun might be hiding.

The Doctor’s men were not waiting at the narrow pass, which surprised Rodolfo, and he wondered whether the Doctor was going to attack them after all. Alfred, however, was sure that he would, and so, when they were halfway across the river, he stopped.

“Gentlemen, get your guns ready.”

No sooner had he spoken than a gun appeared from behind a tree and a shot rang out. The bullet whistled past Ernest’s ear.

“Good heavens! That was close.”

They jumped off their horses and ran for shelter. They could now see that there were three attackers. Ernest, who had more experience fighting than the others, took charge.

“Rodolfo, is it possible to cross the river at any other point?”

“About a half a mile farther up, but there is no road.”

“If you’ll let me have Warrior, I’ll manage it all right. You keep them busy while I approach from behind.”

So Ernest got up on the beautiful white horse, which was almost invisible in the snow, and rode off up the river. About half an hour later, a shot rang out and they saw a body fall from behind one of the trees. Alfred saw his chance.

“Rodolfo, let’s get to the other side. Ernest won’t give them any time to think about us.”

Two minutes later they were on the other side. By this time, Ernest had hit another and the third had laid down his gun and was holding up a white handkerchief. Ernest appeared from behind a tree, followed by Warrior.

“Well, that wasn’t too difficult.”

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Alfred saw a movement. It was the wounded man who was pointing his gun at Rodolfo.

“Rodolfo, get down!”

But is was too late. Rodolfo fell to the ground, his blood spilling onto the white snow. Ernest pointed his gun and shot the man.

Ernest examined Rodolfo and found that he was still breathing, but the bullet had entered his chest and he was bleeding badly.

“We’ve got to get him to Vilcea quickly. Alfred, throw the men’s guns into the river and get that man to put the dead men on to a horse. Then let’s get going.”

They reached Vilcea about twenty minutes later. Ernest held Rodolfo in his arms and rode into Vilcea on Warrior. At the first inn, they got Rodolfo on to a bed and Ernest set to work, trying to save his life.

Two hours later, Ernest had managed to get the bullet out and the wound dressed. Alfred looked on in admiration. “I had no idea you were such an expert, dear boy.”

“Oh, did I never tell you I studied medicine for two years before turning to archaeology? You know, I think I would have made quite a good doctor.”

“I suppose it’s all that blood you like, dear fellow. What are Rodolfo’s chances of pulling through?”

“Oh, he’ll live, but it may take a few days before he can get back on to his feet.”

Suddenly they heard Rodolfo’s voice.

“Sir Alfred, get the Mayor and the Police Chief to come. I want witnesses.”

“Straight away, old fellow.”

Seeing Ernest’s bare and bloody arms, Rodolfo realised that it was he who had saved his life.

“Lord Ernest, I now owe you a life. How can I repay you?”

“One day, Count, I’d like to spend some time at the castle, just going through the archives. Would that be all right?”

“Anything, Lord Ernest, anything.”

Half an hour later, the Mayor and the Police Chief arrived and the documents were formally handed over. It was now up to the authorities to deal with Doctor Magorsky. Alfred was thinking.

“It looks as if our job is over, Ernest old fellow.”

“I’d really love to see those vampire bats again. Can’t I go with the police to arrest the Doctor?”

“First of all, we don’t know where the Doctor is. He is probably hiding by now. And his main aim now will be to kill us, not Rodolfo, before we get back to England and publish everything.”

“Quite so, old boy.”

“Rodolfo’s in good hands. So I suggest we get out of here as quickly as possible. We have a long journey ahead of us.”

“I’m going to miss this place, Alfred old fellow, it suits me.”

“I can’t altogether agree with you, old boy. But I do believe Rodolfo will make a very good Count. I always thought he was a very solid chap.”

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