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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 morning.
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 intonation.
"Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will!" He made no motion of
stepping to meet me, but stood like a statue,as though his gesture of welcome had fixed