As usual, Harry’s guests gathered together in the evening.
The news that the missing document was finally found and the last obstacle to the transfer of ownership removed, exited everyone. The new owner was congratulated. Toasts were drunk to Harry’s health and plans for the housewarming celebrations were made. Some of the young men already made enquiries about the names and appearance of girls and women from the neighbouring town.
Despite the general happy mood, Harry appeared pensive. After a while, he called his manager:
“Mr Smith, before you do anything else, please see to it, that the remains of that poor man in the crypt are buried properly. Also, have the crack in the wall examined and repaired. I consider this body, found on my first day as the owner of the estate a bad omen”
His words made many of the guests feel uneasy.
“Bury the poor man under the name of Peter Dorich,” added Harry.
The guests exchanged puzzled looks and only Doctor and Karl Ivanovich understood Harry’s request, but both chose to remain silent.
Soon happy mood reigned once more.
After loud conversation and jokes had died down and the number of empty wine bottles deemed sufficient, Harry called in the librarian and asked him to read a continuation of Schoolteacher’s Diary, if he had managed to find it.
Karl Ivanovich obeyed immediately, put on his glassed and flipped open old exercise book.
I confess, it is torturous and yet, it gives my very life its meaning. During the day I do not live, I cannot live, all that I can do is wait, passionately long for the night to come. And the day drags on and on endlessly.
My sister and Mina are making carrot pies; they swear that they are my favourites. I don’t know. I don’t remember. It must be true.
And finally, the night comes, desired, long waited for, the moon is rising. The air is so fragrant, and silver waves come down to me from the moon.
Silence. Everything is quiet, not even a leaf is moving...but listen, listen! Something is rustling ringing. She is here, my lovely.
You are so beautiful, so exquisite!
Tonight you have adorned yourself with nenufar flowers; they look so beautiful on you.
Come in, come in my beloved.
The window is open and I took away the garlic, it is gone.
All is in vain.
She stretches her arms towards me, her veil flutters in the night breeze, like wings, her eyes are shining with desire, and yet she does not come in as if the invisible net is stretched across the window frame and is holding her back.
She moans and vanishes.....and every night it repeats itself.........from the blue sky rocking on the silver waves of the moonlight she comes to me.
I decided, tonight I will sit on the windowsill and try to grab her.
Damn my sister, she is so annoying!
‘You are so pale, what’s the matter with you, eat this eat that!” it is unbearable! She seems to be following me everywhere. And the old church watchman is even worse; he seems to be guarding me instead of his church!
I am forced to lock my room.
What the hell are they thinking? Do they think me mad?
I am merely conducting an experiment in the name of science, trying to examine a natural incident.
The night is near.
Yesterday I carried out my plan. I sat in the window and grabbed her arm, pulling her against me. She didn’t struggle, instead, she clung to me, her veil wrapped around both of us, I lost my balance and fell out of the window into the garden.
Fortunately, the ground isn’t far bellow and my injuries were minor, - I scratched my cheek and neck.
Strange thing is that I still lost consciousness, and when I came to, she was gone and the moon was dark.
Today I went to the village.
Old watchman gives me strange looks and Heinrich is completely cured, even the wound on his neck is healed.
What am I to do tonight?
I have no desire to fall from the window again, and I need to see her all the same.
The conclusion is simple; I must climb out into the garden and wait there.
Several wonderful nights spent in the garden!
I sat on the bench and she held me in her arms. She would pull my head back and kiss my neck so passionately that I felt sweet stinging pain.
But that damned old man spoiled it all!
He arrived and my beloved vanished.
I was so enraged that suddenly, I felt dizzy and weak, and only with his help managed to get into my bed.
I lay there for three days.
Old man didn’t waste his time; he hung my room with garlands of garlic and drew crosses everywhere.
He tried to convince me that I was almost gone, since a vampire was ‘leeching’ me.
Of course, it is all nonsense.
But what happened to me?
Dream? A vision?
It was too clear to be a dream. A ghost? A ghost cannot kiss or bite. What then? Is it true? A vampire?
What stupidity, what am I, an old woman?
It is getting darker, the evening will come soon and the moon will rise. The air will shimmer and ring with music, night flowers will open, dark butterflies will fly high...high!
Why I cannot fly as well?
If I only wished I could be their king, their prince.
Stupid, stupid Mina, she covers my legs and tells me that it is a shawl. I can see clearly, it is a king’s mantle, better still, a magic cloak!
Tonight I will go to the lake.
Yesterday I expertly fooled that old idiot, the church watchman!
He sat on our bench with something that looked like either a wooden stake or a cross, and I quietly, oh so quietly crawled right behind him!
My invisible cloak must have helped me, or maybe the old man is deaf, either way I was gone!
Tonight I will do the same.
Yesterday I went to the lake early, since we had tea in our garden, for Doctor Brace and the village medic, I greeted them and slipped away unnoticed.
A small disappointment.
I believed that my beloved descends to me from the moon, and silver steps ring and ring beneath her feet, but yesterday I saw that she comes out of the castle, or more accurately from the rock on which castle stands. I think there is an underground passage there, - aren’t all castles supposed to have secret passages?
I must go out in the daytime and have a look.
I am off.
Of course, I was right. Half way up the rock there is a passageway, but it is so narrow, I doubt whether I will be able to squeeze through.
I am feeling dreadfully weak. It is of course from overtiredness, it is no joke to climb up nearly vertical rock. While climbing I didn’t notice neither difficulty, nor danger and it was only once I got back to the lake that I realised just how ardours it all was.
And she, she comes to me every night, only for me a mere schoolteacher....what nonsense am I talking I am not a mere schoolteacher, I am a prince. No wonder she loves me!
She has grown so beautiful, not only her lips, but her cheeks are also glowing with warm colour.
There is just one thing that I don’t like, she loves to kiss my neck, so fervently that my wounds have no chance to heal. I feel them burning right now.
Tonight I am going to the lake again.
“After this, there are only blank pages left”, said Karl Ivanovich. “I don’t believe there is a continuation”, he added, looking up at Harry.
“Pity we cannot establish whether we are dealing with a real vampire or mere lunatic” remarked James.
“Do you believe in vampires?” asked Georges.
“I don’t have a custom to reject things that I know nothing about”, replied James, “The science says “there is no such thing” while the folk belief says ‘They exist”. Who is right?”
“The world is full of mystery. What are our dreams, premonitions, even hallucinations?”
Georges paled and said quietly:
“I think it would be horrible if ‘they’ existed”.
The Village headman, already very tipsy and in a talkative mood smiled:
“Don’t be afraid, you no longer get them up in our mountains. My grandmother told me that, in the olden days, they would roam about, but as soon as you hammer the aspen stake into their backs, they wouldn’t get up again. She said that she saw it done once, when she was young”.
“I heard that you could bind ‘them’ with a spell”, added Miller timidly.
“I also know this”, interrupted the headman, “but grandmother said that the stake is far better. A spell could be intentionally or accidentally removed...”
Harry and several guests came out on the terrace to enjoy the night air, while the rest of the company continued their argument about vampires.
It was a wonderful night .The air was clear and dry. There was no mist in the valley and the lake shimmered with metallic sheen under the light of the full moon
The ghostly white shape of the village bell tower rose behind the lake, glowing in the moonlight. The shadowy wall of the ancient forest to the left and the forbidding rock crowned with a dark outline of the castle on the right completed the picture.
Ever the dreamer, young Georges was staring at the view, lost in his thoughts. Before long, he is imagined that a small cloud was gliding down the rock face.
“Strange, where did it come from?” wondered Georges.
Tall fir tree was blocking his view. In a flash, Georges came down the terrace steps and made his way to small garden gate.
The cloud is gone.
Georges stood still for a while, thinking.
Suddenly he felt the night air grow cold and someone or something move past him.
He turned around and felt his blood turn to ice.
Behind him was a ghostly shape of a woman. He could see the transparent face, framed by long blonde hair. She moved her hands slightly and Georges saw that she was holding a water lily.
Georges screamed and in three great leaps was back on the terrace and, without a word tumbled into the dinning room and sank onto a couch.
Everyone jumped to their feet.
Georges silently pointed to the garden. Doctor filled a glass with water and gave it to the boy, who drank it obediently.
“Now tell me what’s the matter,” demanded Doctor.
“The spell is broken and she is here, in the garden”.
“What the devil are you talking about?”
“Vampire woman with blonde hair”, declared Georges.
“Search the garden”, ordered Harry to his servants.
Doctor stopped him:
“Don’t bother, Harry”
He turned back to Georges and asked:
“Do tell me, my young friend, just how many mugs of beer have you drunk today in the village?”
George looked up at him, blankly.
“Many?” demanded Doctor
“And afterwards? Champagne?”
“Yes,” Georges whispered guiltily.
Doctor got up to his feet:
“If right now you are going to dress yourself in sheets, start flapping about and declare yourself crown prince of the butterflies, I will not be surprised. I warned you all about the village beer. Thorn apples! Actually, gentlemen, I would like to advise you all to go to bed. I doubt that this night will pass quietly. I fear that our brave young knights, while under the influence of thorn apple will fight if not vampires, then at least snarling wolves and other monsters”, he finished.
Guests heeded his advice, and after bidding each other goodnight, everyone left for their respective rooms.
Captain Wright was the last one to get up.
Doctor’s prediction came true.
In the middle of the night, the guests were woken up by a scream.
Everyone ran out into the passageway.
“What’s happening, who was screaming?” Half-dressed guests were asking each other, without getting any answers. It seems that no one knew where the scream came from.
“I think it came from the second bedroom, counting from the window”, said James “I was the first one in the passage and saw someone come out of that room, pass close to the window and then take a turn left. Let’s go.”
The door to the second bedroom wasn’t locked.
Viscount Renault, one of the quieter guests was lying on the bed. His arms were stiff and stretched alongside his body and his face was frozen in a mask of terror. He was unconscious.
After Doctor rubbed him with alcohol, Renault opened his eyes but could not answer any questions, saying that he remembered nothing.
“I don’t know who screamed”, he added hesitantly.
Doctor turned to James:
“And ‘someone’ you saw in the passageway was of course a woman with water lilies in her golden tresses?” he enquired sarcastically.
“It was moonlight, that passes through the stained glass window and the rest was completed by a shadow from the picture frame”, replied James calmly.
After a while, things calmed down and the guests returned to their rooms once more.
The rest of the night went peacefully.
Early at the breakfast, Smith told Harry that one of the young workers had died suddenly last night.
“We don’t know yet, Sir. Doctor Weiss and Joe are still with the body”, replied Smith, bowing his head politely.
“What was the man’s name?” asked Harry
“Bleno? I don’t remember him,” said Harry.
“Wasn’t he the same young man to whom you, Smith, gave the broken head of the goddess?” asked James.
“Yes, Sir, that was him. The head is still lying on the windowsill, opposite the foot of his bed.
“Where did he die?”
“He died in his sleep, in the common room shared by five more people. The room is to the left in the passageway and no one heard anything during the night. His death was peaceful”, replied Smith politely.
Doctor came into the room and answered everyone’s silent question:
“Of course, a heart failure”.
“See to it that he is laid to rest properly and find out of he has relatives in the village”, ordered Harry.
“Bleno had an elderly aunt”, politely informed one of the footmen.
“Give her a hundred dollars”, added Harry.
Harry’s friends and guests started praising him for his generosity.
Wanting to stop the compliments, Harry quickly turned to Joe, Doctor’s assistant, and asked him:
“You are limping, are you alright?”
“It’s nothing, Sir; I lost my balance and pulled a muscle. Bleno threw a water lily flower near his bed and I didn’t see it in the hurry and slipped”.
The day promised to be boring.
Harry received post from America and locked himself in his study.
Smith was seeing to the funeral, and the guests were left to their own devices. Not that the entertainment was scarce: horses, dogs, servants were there at their beck and call. Some chose to go to the city, while the rest decided to answer their mail or read. Many chatted idly.
Only Captain Wright was sullenly quiet. He buried himself in the farthest corner of the terrace and chain-smoked one cigar after the next, only grunting in reply to his friends’ questions and suggestions.
After a while, he was left alone.
“I think the air of Europe doesn’t agree with him”, laughed James.
“No, it is the shortage of women”, argued Georges.
“Either way, Captain Wright has changed in the past three days. He is looking almost ill, and he is definitely lost weight. The last time I saw him like this was back when we were attacked by a band of Indians”, said Doctor.
“What a crazy time we had, couldn’t sleep for three or four nights in the row and yet, this is a trifle comparing to the havoc that constant expectation of an attack wreaks on your nerves!”
“Doctor, you lived through this yourself?” enquired curious youngsters.
“Yes. Wright, Harry, James and I, along with other hunters found ourselves in quite a trap. We got what we deserved! Wouldn’t forget it for as long as I live. But after that adventure, we are rarely apart. I guess the danger made us such firm friends”.
The guests kept pestering Doctor with questions and he spent a long time telling them of his adventures not only in South America, but also in India.