Chapter 2
5 May.--I must have been asleep, for certainly if I had been fully awake I must
have noticed the approach of such a remarkable place. In the gloom the
courtyard looked of considerable size, and as several dark ways led from it under
great round arches, it perhaps seemed bigger than it really is. I have not yet been
able to see it by daylight.
When the caleche stopped, the driver jumped down and held out his hand to
assist me to alight. Again I could not but notice his prodigious strength. His hand
actually seemed like a steel vice that could have crushed mine if he had chosen.
Then he took my traps, and placed them on the ground beside me as I stood
close to a great door, old and studded with large iron nails, and set in a projecting
doorway of massive stone. I could see even in th e dim light that the stone was
massively carved, but that the carving had been much worn by time and weather.
As I stood, the driver jumped again into his seat and shook the reins. The horses
started forward,and trap and all disappeared down one of the dark openings.
I stood in silence where I was, for I did not know what to do. Of bell or knocker
there was no sign. Through these frowning walls and dark window openings it
was not likely that my voice could penetrate. The time I waited seemed endless,
and I felt doubts and fears crowding upon me. What sort of place had I come to,
and among what kind of people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I
had embarked? Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor's clerk sent
out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner? Solicitor's clerk!
Mina would not like that. Solicitor, for just before leaving London I got word that
my examination was successful, and I am now a full-blown solicitor! I began to
rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if I were awake. It all seemed like a horrible
nightmare to me, and I expected that I should suddenly awake, and find myself at
home, with the dawn struggling in through the windows, as I had now and again
felt in the morning after a day of overwork. But my flesh answered the pinching
test, and my eyes were not to be deceived. I was indeed awake and among the
Carpathians. All I could do now was to be patient, and to wait the coming of
Just as I had come to this conclusion I heard a heavy step approaching behind
the great door, and saw through the chinks the gleam of a coming light. Then
there was the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn
back. A key was turned with the loud grating noise of long disuse, and the great
door swung back.
Within, stood a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and
clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him
anywhere. He held in his hand an antique silver lamp, in which the flame burned
without a chimney or globe of any kind, throwing long quivering shadows as it
flickered in the draught of the open door. The old man motioned me in with his
right hand with a courtly gesture, saying in excellent English, but with a strange