The nights are dark now and I am sleeping soundly. I am calm.
Yesterday I went to visit Heinrich. He is very pale but also seems to have calmed down.
Old man redoubled his efforts in garlic propagation and is constantly touching up his crosses.
After my jokes about the garlic, he said:
“Ah, I don’t want to get involved with your young lot, otherwise I could have told you a story or two!”
Maybe if the old man got a little tipsy his tongue would loosen. Worth a try.
Everything is calm and boring; at night, the stench of garlic from the church garden reaches as far as my bedroom.
Today the old watchman came to our house, bringing some church objects for Mina to clean.
I lured him to my study and gave him a cup of tea into which I poured at least two tablespoons of rum. The old man loosened quickly and started to orate in no time at all.
He rambled on and on about the castle, about the olden days, hunting hounds and the ‘poor beautiful Countess’.
“And then, who would have believed such things”, said the old man waving is arms helplessly “she almost mauled me!”
“Who, the hound bitch?” I asked.
“What bitch? The Countess herself! She died and come full moon, she starts to stroll around again. If she gets stuck on someone, poor devil’s sure goner. Some may last a month or two, but most kick the bucket straight away. She’d suck out their lives. Many folks ran from the castle back then. And once we were walking together on the clearing, and the damn wolf, a grayling at that, jumped on me! Knocked me over flat! I already gave my soul up to the Lord! And she, my Nettie, my beauty, darling, she flew in the rage and grabs the bastard by the scruff of his neck......”
“Who? The dead Countess?” I asked surprised.
“To hell with you, all you do is confuse things. The hound, Nettie, I raised her myself, and for nothing, I tell you for nothing, perished the poor dog! She died on the very nigh the snake bit young Countess! You know the one with green eyes....”
The longer he carried on the more confusing his tale became, and soon I had no idea who he was talking about, - the bitch Nettie, the Countess or the snake. Who bit whom and who had green eyes I still have no idea.
“I drowned her in the old well!” he concluded triumphantly.
He went back home and I didn’t stop him. Standing in the doorway, he turned around and, laughing, asked,
“So, it helps, doesn’t it?”
I am depressed, filled with unexplainable strange desire and everything around me seems empty and void of meaning.
What did she want, what was she asking for?
Every night, against my own wishes, I lie listening, waiting for her.
All is silent.
Only the disgusting stench of garlic lingers in my room. Even open window doesn’t help, though the flow of air is completely unobstructed.
What am I waiting for? A dream? A vision?
During the day, I am absolutely calm but towards the evening, I become irritable, unable to find peace.
Something is calling me somewhere and I feel the need to move, to go, but where?
Everything is unclear and confusing and this very uncertainty is torturing me.
I find my condition unbearable.
Tomorrow I will go and bring another flower.
During the day, I was crawling out of my skin and at dusk, I made my way to the village, ran down to the valley and picked the most beautiful water lily I could find.
I lost my footing and stumbled into the swamp, dirtying myself up to my knees.
Like a thief, I sneaked into my room and put the flower in the glass of water on my desk.
I sit by the window and I wait.
Maybe I should lie down.
I couldn’t sleep the whole night, I waited and waited. Nothing.
The flower stands unmoved and only the garlic stench pervades the room.
What can I do to get her to come back?
I know, I feel, that she is suffering, but how and why?
I went to the lake several times, but came back with nothing, except for my wet feet and dirty boots.
My despair is growing...she is not a ghost or a vision. For me she is my beloved, my desired one.
I visited Heinrich.
The old man smirks slyly. I asked him about the bitch Nettie and he explained with surprising clarity, that the counts had fine pack of hunting dogs, and Nettie was the Countess’ favourite and had the privilege of lying at her mistress’ feet.
“The old American devil did away with her,” said the old man “from the first time she laid her eyes on him, she hated him. She sensed evil in him. As soon as he’d come around her fur would stand up, she’d bare her teeth...and on that night when Countess fell ill, she looked terrifying.
As soon as I ran into the room, I saw Nettie shaking, her hair standing on end, foaming at the mouth, teeth snapping. I had no time for her then, but I remember, clear as yesterday, that I opened the terrace door. Nettie ran out as if she’d lost her marbles and vanished in the direction of the old chapel. We never saw her again”.
“Do you think the snake bit Nettie?” I asked
“No, the snake bit Countess”
“How could a snake have gotten into the castle?”
“From the jewel box that the Old Devil had brought with him”.
When I was leaving, the old man asked me if I was sleeping soundly and if I stopped going to the lake.
“Who told you that I was going to the lake?” I asked, surprised.
He gave me a knowing toothless smile:
“Where else could you have dirtied your boots so much? I can see they are filthy with mud, completely ruined! Don’t worry, you will sleep well,” he added, laughing.
When I came home, I was still thinking about his sudden interest in me. Why does he care so much whether I go to the lake and whether I sleep well?
Thinking, I began to pace my room and accidently moved the window curtain. Something slid to the floor and I picked it up. What do you think!?
A wreath made up of garlic cloves and flowers!
So this is the source of the stench in my room, and I though that it came from the church garden.
It appears the old lunatic is the culprit.”
Karl Ivanovich stopped reading and turned the page:
“Here is another interruption,” said the old librarian, clearing his throat.
“Good. Time for bed, gentlemen. It looks as if half of our guests are snoozing already and Captain Wright is beginning to snore”, said Harry, rising “Goodnight and May you have many pleasant dreams”.
The rigours of an all-day hunt had taken toll on many and everyone agreed readily. The guests bade each other goodnight and left for their bedrooms.