Originally published in 1912. Dedicated to E.L.H. If you don’t like it, don’t listen, but don’t get in the way of my lies. -traditional proverb of Russian storytellers. Prologue For the first time in many years the main room of the village inn was aired and cleaned out as if in anticipation of a celebration. Tonight it was blazing with lights as a large and obviously wealthy foreign company made themselves comfortable inside. A week ago the entire inn was hired by the American millionaire, Mr Harry Cardie. Wild tales preceded his arrival, and the village gossips wasted hours whispering among themselves about his untold riches, his fabled cotton plantations and Mexican mines and even more so about his mysterious origins. According to rumours Harry Cardie was not only a direct descendant of the Mexican emperor Montezuma but was also a secret worshipper of Huitzilopochtli. Of course, the stories contained more fantasy than fact, but one thing remained certain, - Mr Cardie is wealthy, young and an avid hunter, whose passion for the big game took him to Africa and India. It was both business and traveller’s curiosity that brought Harry to Europe. The village tongue-waggers maintained that the arrival of this fairy-tale prince to the remote Carpathian Mountains had something to do with the ownership of the ancient castle Dracula that stood abandoned for over forty years. All the previous owners had died, the last one renouncing the world and entering a remote monastery, where he later died. Some said that Harry bought the castle for the sake of the title, yet others swore that he inherited it, and that one of the previous owners had travelled all the way to India where he studied black magic under the guidance of Brahmins and later his descendants made their way to America. Harry was accompanied by a large entourage of friends, servants and hangers-on. Among his closest friends were Doctor Weiss, short and tubby gentleman, jovial and a charming conversationalist, Captain Wright, an Englishman who cultivated his cold-bloodedness to a point of religion. The gossips said that he was once taken captive and imprisoned in a subterranean dungeon by the bloodthirsty followers of the goddess Bhowani. While awaiting the inevitable death, Captain Wright didn’t change his habits and never parted with his customary cigar and after a miraculous release only asked for a glass of rum, which he drank as calmly as if he were at a party. Another addition to of this inseparable trio was James Watt. Although he was an American, James had enough French blood coursing through his veins to account for his liveliness. Always moving, obsessed with solving every mystery that came across his pass, James could never keep his hands off anything that fascinated him. Once he nearly paid with his arm for a desire to touch a golden lotus on the chest of an Indian deity. To this day, a bright red scar coils around his arm like a serpent, a memento of a blow from an outraged devotee. Because of James’s passion for observation and deduction, Doctor Weiss nicknamed him ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Harry was accompanied by his manager, Smith, his personal butler Sabo, a cook and a footman. Doctor Weiss’s assistant, Joe was in charge of the medical supplies and the first aid that is so necessary during dangerous hunts. The rest of the staff was made up of hired locals and was to be dismissed upon departure. Harry’s company of friends and hangers-on also changed according to his place of residence. Right now, he was surrounded mostly by young people, lovers of hunt and adventure, or simply those who love to live on someone else’s account. To give him his due, Smith was an expert at entertaining Harry’s guests. A new hunt was planned every single day, each one better than the last and in the evening a magnificent dinner, accompanied by expensive and abundant wines awaited the hunters. Wine loosened tongues. After dinner, the guests liked to chat, and as the evening wore on, the usual talk of women and horse races would be swapped for hunter’s tales of adventures in American forests and the jungles of India. Tonight Harry came up with a new form of entertainment; reading. Recently he had hired an elderly librarian, Karl Ivanovich Schmidt, tasked with locating a missing document witnessing the burial of one of the Counts Dracula, in the archive of the village’s church. Every evening the librarian gave Harry report of documents found during the day, and tonight he brought in a pile of old papers and diaries. Harry found them interesting and he asked Karl Ivanovich to read them aloud after dinner for the amusement of his guests.