“Louis! You must help me, I can no longer bear being in the same room with him!”
Ah! The words spoken by a hysterical woman, a cheating wife no less. This woman and the tale I shall now recount to you is quite a memorable one to me at least.
This is the tale of two men I came to meet—the woman involved was only incidental. The men however are far more memorable as you will see.
I begin by discussing one of them. A gentleman you have no doubt heard of. Sadly he was crazy. Yes, crazy. He was mad, driven nearly insane by his jealous nature. You see he still loved his wife. Yet despite that he had accused her on innumerable occasions of having affairs, which to be fair to him, she was sometimes engaged in. But there were reasons for this as she told me herself.
“He drives me wild, reading passages out loud from the bible! Even our child cannot stand it. I plead with him to stop but he will not listen, oh Louis what am I to do?”
I didn’t know. I had in my time come across murderous religious zealots, so fired up with their hate-filled agenda that they sent thousands to their deaths.
Who doesn’t know of the Inquisition or Crusades, all carried out supposedly in the name of God? The irony of those sorts of persecutions has never been lost on me I can tell you.
But I digress as I often do, back to my story of Maria and myself. I met her in Amsterdam quite by accident. I happened to be in that city, as I had just ended a particularly trying love affair with a vampire lady.
Now vampires are particularly hedonistic creatures as I am myself and this lady was no exception. But even as vampires go she was willful and selfish.
I don’t mind sharing a carnal interest, no prude I—but when she said she only preferred her own kind I ended the relationship.
I as you know am not just a vampire. When one is descended from angels, fallen though they might be one does tend to feel somewhat superior to these ordinary imbibers of blood.
Amsterdam was an unusual choice for me I have to say. But I did always like the city with its picturesque canals and quaint buildings. It served as a haven to me a place of quiet that I did seek on occasion.
I was booked in at a small hotel and found I felt lonely as nearly all of the guests were couples. After refusing some very kind invitations to join them for dinner, yes I know what you’re thinking: what does fallen angel spawn and a vampire consume besides blood? Well, surprisingly enough I do enjoy the occasional steak preferably if it is very rare.
I did not however seek food nor anyone’s company. I do like to brood sometimes as I did on this night.
I was strolling along the quiet streets close to midnight when I noticed a woman leaning over the railing of a bridge--Grimburgwal Bridge to be exact. It was obvious she intended to kill herself.
Her head snapped up. “Go away!” She shouted as she mounted the railing.
I flew as I am want to do when the situation calls for it.
She had fainted which was just as well as I didn’t want to explain my fantastic powers to her. Besides, she was in a sorry state and would not have been able to understand anything...
As there were no taverns open, I took her back to my lodgings where I laid her down on the bed and poured some schnapps for her.
She was just coming to when I urged her to sip it. “But I want to die.” she pleaded.
I asked her why and she explained she was married to a man she could no longer stand being with. He was difficult to live with, adding that he was moody and increasingly volatile.
“And, although he does not lash out at me physically, he does so frighten me that I suffer greatly as does our son.”
I felt sorry for her, so much so I offered to help her. “I will see to it that you and the child are safely ensconced in a place of your own choosing here or abroad.”
She kissed my hand and thanked me. That was how it began. Within a few months we were engaged in an affair.
Now sitting in my small but elegant home in Mayfair, I found myself listening to her once again making the case for my committing to her. You see she wanted marriage.
I started to speak when suddenly someone began pounding on the door.
“I know you’re in there! I demand to be let in!”
She looked horrified when I stood up. “You’re not going to open the door are you?”
Living as I do is difficult enough sometimes without courting any unnecessary attention as you will appreciate. So I said I was opening the door because I did not wish a scene.
A mad-eyed creature stood before me. “I am this lady’s husband!” he shouted then turning to Maria he asked, “How could you?”
He was neither tall nor short but of medium height, well built and clean shaven. He was handsome too in his way. The only aspect of his appearance to cause alarm were his eyes, for they were wild. This could be attributed to his outrage I thought--little did I know.
Suddenly he turned those lunatic eyes upon me. “They have a name for men such as you, you know!”
I smiled for this amused me, as I thought if you only knew.
Maria was clearly upset. I had the impression she was worried for me, that he might do me injury. This naturally amused me.
She began to tell him the kinds of things I think she thought he wanted to hear, in order to distract him. “Please, let us go somewhere else.”
I considered her brave to do this. She was putting my welfare ahead of her own.
She made a move to take his arm. But he pulled away from her in a most violent manner and turned his attention to me. When he removed a pistol from his coat I was not surprised.
“I bet you don’t think I would use this!”
“I didn’t think anything at all! I never saw you before and actually I don’t care if you use it or not,” I replied. Sometimes I don’t care if people discover my superior attributes and now was such a time. I mean after all, they’re never believed anyway.
“I bet I could remove that smirk from your pretty boy face!”
I touched my cheeks. “That is one expression I have never heard.” I replied. “Interesting.”
He raised the gun then as his wife fell to her knees pleading. “No don’t!”
I knew he would shoot it which he did. There was a bang and the stink of gunpowder, followed by a look of incredulity, followed by more shots.
“I’m afraid I am immune,” I said. “You might as well stop.”
“What manner of man are you?”
“I am a unique being.”
I turned around then fully expecting him to pick up a weapon perhaps one of the fire irons, which he did. When I felt it lightly brush the back of my head I was amused. I turned and laughed. “I wonder what else you can try and kill me with.”
The wife had by this time fainted so she was not a party to this which was just as well, for I didn’t wish her to be any more shocked or upset than she already was.
“You’re not human!”
I snapped my fingers. “Now, you’re onto something!”
“What in God’s name are you?
I shook my head. “God did have something to do with the whole thing, in a way I said. You see my father supported Lucifer and fell from Heaven after the war up there and…!”
“You are a demon!”
I sighed but found I still had some patience. “Not entirely, only half. My mother was human.”
“You are a creature of the night!”
“I am more than that.”
I was just explaining the difference between myself and the vampires when he picked up a wooden statue, a great favorite of mine—it is or was the likeness of an oriental wizard.
I knew what he would do before he did it.
Snap! And snap again, first one arm and then the other. I knew what he intended to do and just waited patiently.
“Die you abomination!”
“A cross! How completely unoriginal!
He lunged at me, trying to burn my flesh with it but not succeeding.
I snatched the cross away from him. “Why don’t you use this,” I said as I quickly transformed one of the pieces into a razor sharp stake.
I handed it to him and even bared my chest for him. “Right here should do it!”
He sprang at me, screaming with rage as he tried stabbing me but to no avail, for the thing just broke in his hands. Utterly exhausted he fell to his knees crying.
“You weep like a baby.” I said. Nasty I know but I really couldn’t help it.
His wife by this time had come to. “What are you?” she too looked flabbergasted. “I saw what happened!”
“I have an unusual heritage,” I said. Whereupon I explained to both of them exactly what that heritage consisted of.
I departed then, leaving both Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Van Helsing in utter shock.
Whitby, I had often sought the peace of this cozy port. The place has such quiet dignity I think. I often went there to take the air you might say. It is a lovely fishing village in North Yorkshire. And although the sky is invariably gun metal gray I found it a charming place to visit.
It is built on the slopes of cliffs at the mouth of the Esk, which forms the harbour of this ancient seaport.
A little history, I hope you don’t mind: the town owes its origin to the foundation of the Abbey of Streoneshalh, but that name was afterwards superseded by that of Hwytby, or, as now written, Whitby, that is, White Town.
High atop the cliffs is the ruined abbey of St. Hilda’s I quite liked the look of it for it reminded me of grander days of yore you might say--of castles and kings and knights and their fair ladies.
But that is long ago and I was once again in Whitby.
I, as you know, have mainly nocturnal habits although on my steady diet of wolfsbane I am immune to the effects of the sun which makes things a whole lot easier for me.
As the weather was supposed to be fair, I was quite enjoying the idea of a brief holiday.
You see, I had come to Whitby shortly after that horrible encounter with that loathsome zealot Van Helsing.
I arrived at the end of August 1889 which struck me, for it was the anniversary of the first Ripper killing. You remember I told you about that last, so no need to bring it up again.
I had taken lodgings in a small guest house overlooking the bay. The day had been overcast, not surprisingly so I spent most of the day reading.
At last, I decided to go out for some fresh air. As it was raining lightly, there were few persons about which suited me, for I enjoy my solitude more often than not.
As the wind had picked up I found I rather fancied a hot drink of some kind. I was just thinking that when I noticed a gentleman sitting on a bench writing something. I stood for a while watching him as he made copious notes.
I have always admired writers and suspected that the man was one of that noble profession.
Truly I had no desire to interrupt him but he happened to look up and smile. “Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon.” I took this as an invitation to go over to him.
“If it rains any more heavily I shall have to take my scribbles inside.”
“Yes,” I answered. “I should think so.”
It started to rain quite violently and we soon found ourselves dashing toward a small cafe close by.
The owner let us know he was going to close in an hour. But he said it pleasantly which was nice.
We ordered his best cognac which pleased him immeasurably as we soon got down to chatting.
“You’re a writer, aren’t you?”
My new friend, shrugged. “Not yet I’m not although I sincerely hope I shall be.”
I smiled for he had the most delightful Irish accent. I put my hand out. “I am Louis Darton and I am also from another place originally.”
“Bram Stoker from Dublin, sir--although my family and I now reside in London.”
It was obvious he wanted to know where I was from. This was a very genial man.
I had decided eons ago to tell people I was from Paris as it is one of my favourite places in the entire world. I mean where else could I tell them I was from if you think about it?
“I am from Paris but I too reside in London now...”
“Paris! Now that is a city I long to visit!”
I smiled. “Well why not go there then?”
My new friend smiled. “I find there is so little time what with work and so on, I don’t really have the time to go away.”
“Are you referring to your writing? Please, if you don’t mind, I would love to know. I admire creativity.
We spent the next hour discussing Mr. Stoker’s writing.
“It stems from my childhood. I was bedridden until the age of seven, weak lungs they said. At least I was never tubercular.” he nodded and looked most serious. “I believe writers have meaningful encounters, it’s almost like...”
“Predestination? Like fate having a hand in shaping one’s destiny?”
He regarded me with such admiration, I felt quite proud. “Yes I suppose that’s true. It’s as if we were meant to do certain things.”
“So what is it you write then?” I made as if to read what he was writing.
“Not yet please, it is far from ready. What do I write? Well sir, I write stories of the supernatural--of things that cannot be explained!”
I was fascinated and said so. We had by this time been served more cognac and I thought it prudent to perhaps order strong coffees next.
“Yes,” Mr. Stoker said. “I quite enjoy a good cup of coffee.”
I said I did too and was relieved when we got back to the matter at hand: his writing.
“How did you come to be interested in the supernatural?”
“That is interesting. They say one should write what one knows. Well I do that. You see during those years of my convalescence when I longed to be outside with other children I made the acquaintance of the most remarkable individual. Erzabet was her name. She was a maid in my parent’s home in Dublin. Quite a nice woman if a bit.” Here he tapped his temple and I was given to understand that this maid was quite eccentric. I urged him to continue.
“She was from Romania. She told me the most amazing stories, all about beastly creatures that dwelt in caves and drank blood... The thing I loved about her was she didn’t speak to me as though I was a child. “I recognize in you,” she said, “something special, you will go on to greatness and people like that should at any age be encouraged with whatever knowledge they require...”
I agree with that, still do. “Did she tell you of Vlad the Impaler?” I couldn’t help it. I had to ask him, for I had a feeling she did.
`He looked surprised. “Why yes, so you know of him too?”
“Yes, I do know something of him,” I replied thinking back to that grossly evil man I always thought gave vampirism a bad name, quite the sadist he was.
“Yes, well what with her stories of myth and legend and Vlad and so on—she quite lit the fires of my imagination.” He stopped then to drink his coffee.
“People often give us gifts that are so meaningful you were fortunate indeed.”
“Quite, I have it in my head to write a novel based on all of these things.”
“You want to write of Vlad.”
I shocked him, his jaw dropped and he began to laugh. “How did you know? But not Vlad, someone similar a count I thought.”
I found myself intrigued. “Now that is interesting, and in what time would you set this novel of yours?”
“Present day, I thought!”
I was intrigued. “Really? How very interesting. I like that idea very much. I should think you’ll have much success with it.”
This rather thrilled him. “Do you think so, really? You know what? I quite had the idea of that old ruined abbey as the model for my count’s castle! What do you think of that?”
“I think that is amazing! Do it!”
Suddenly we were startled by a crash and a thud. It seemed the poor proprietor had dozed off and had tipped his chair over. We went to him.
I said I was sorry and insisted he take some recompense. He was proud but grateful.
“The poor man. I feel guilty,” Stoker said. I did too.
It was near ten p.m. by the time we found ourselves walking along Whitby’s quiet streets.
“I should like to have you in my lodgings for a drink Mr. Darton. My wife won’t be arriving until tomorrow.”
I took him up on it.
He was staying in one of those grander hotels that necessitated a long climb up Whitby’s steep, hilly streets. Naturally I had to walk, as flying was out of the question. I didn’t wish to shock the man.
We chatted about so much along the way. He told me he worked as the director of the Lyceum Theater in London.
By the time we were nearly in sight of the hotel, we were startled by a shout. Without looking I knew who it was.
“Caught you at last!” Van Helsing cried.
He looked more strange than I remembered him. He was wearing a dirty, wrinkled oat and an odd wide-brimmed foreign looking hat.
He kept glancing at Stoker and back at me. “Do you know what this is?
Stoker replied at once. “This, sir? This gentleman is a thoroughly nice chap and I hope you do not spoil our evening.”
Van Helsing laughed like a maniac. “Nice chap?! He is a demon from hell!”
Stoker grew impatient. “My good man if you don’t leave us alone...”
I could see he had no intention of leaving us alone. I tried to tell Stoker but Van Helsing began shouting. “Have you ever heard of vampires? He is their master! Their chief demon! He is a monster! He is fallen angel spawn!”
Stoker glanced at me. “I guess I’m not the only one with an active imagination!”
This pushed Van Helsing over the edge and he went to attack Stoker. Thankfully a police constable appeared just then--a rather tall broad shouldered one. “No more of that if you please. Now come along quietly, that’s right sir.”
The policeman was strong because Van Helsing put up a good fight.
But another constable soon appeared and he was hustled away. We gazed after him. “The man’s a lunatic! Where do you know him from?”
“It’s a long story,” I replied.
“Odd about his vampire accusations, rather gives me some ideas for my story I was telling you about.”
“And which if I may ask would those be?”
“Well,” he said. “I think it might be hugely interesting having a vampire killer in it, patterned after that man. By the way, what was his name?”
“He is called Abraham Van Helsing and I think that is a fantastic idea!” I replied. “Come along now, I think we should drink to it!”
We did. So late were we up that I had to sneak off to brew some wolfsbane tea by morning!
Let me bring you up to date on a few things. I hold no grudge against Van Helsing as a matter of fact I admire him. He has had a difficult life.
You see tragically he and Maria lost their son. I think that was why he acted the way he did in that encounter with Mr. Stoker and myself. The poor man was at the end of his tether.
As for Maria, she sadly had descended into madness over the death of that son. Van Helsing has continually refused to divorce her being the devout Roman Catholic that he is. I admire him for that, truly I do.
As for Mr. Stoker I often hear from him. He has in fact given me the author’s edition of Dracula which he has autographed himself.
“To my dear friend, Monsieur Louis Darton I dedicate this book. I will always remember our first meeting in Whitby! I shall never forget it. Your eternal friend, Abraham Stoker, 11 May 1897, London...”
Eternal? I think not. But it’s a lovely thought anyway.
Yes, he is my best friend I must say. Not only had he honored me in this way, but as Director of the Lyceum, he sends me tickets regularly to attend the plays I enjoy so much. I did suggest to him that Dracula might make a great stage play.
“Perhaps you’re right Louis,” he said. “I just don’t think the world is ready for such a thing not yet anyway, perhaps in time...”