Original Gothic Novel
24 July. Whitby.-
Lucy met me at the station, looking sweeter and lovelier than ever, and we
drove up to the house at the Crescent in which they have rooms. This is a
lovely place. The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which
broadens out as it comes near the harbor. A great viaduct runs across, with
high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really
is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are
on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near
enough to see down. The houses of the old town- the side away from us- are
all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the pictures
we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which
was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion,"
where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense
size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a legend that a white
lady is seen in one of the windows. Between it and the town there is another
church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones.
This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town,
and has a full view of the harbor and all up the bay to where the headland
called Kettleness stretches out into the sea. it descends so steeply over
the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have
been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches
out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them,
through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at
the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very
often myself and work. Indeed, I am writing now, with my book on my knee,
and listening to the talk of three old men who are sitting beside me. They
seem to do nothing all day but sit up here and talk.
The harbor lies
below me, with, on the far side, one long granite wall stretching out into
the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of it, in the middle of which is
a lighthouse. A heavy sea-wall runs along outside of it. On the near side,
the sea-wall makes an elbow crooked inversely, and its end too has a lighthouse.
Between the two piers there is a narrow opening into the harbor, which then
It is nice at
high water; but when the tide is out it shoals away to nothing, and there
is merely the stream of the Esk, running between banks of sand, with rocks
here and there. Outside the harbor on this side there rises for about half
a mile a great reef, the sharp edge of which runs straight out from behind
the south lighthouse. At the end of it is a buoy with a bell, which swings
in bad weather, and sends in a mournful sound on the wind. They have a legend
here that when a ship is lost bells are heard out at sea. I must ask the old
man about this; he is coming this way...
He is a funny
old man. He must be awfully old, for his face is all gnarled and twisted like
the bark of a tree. He tells me that he is nearly a hundred, and that he was
a sailor in the Greenland fishing fleet when Waterloo was fought. He is, I
am afraid, a very skeptical person, for when I asked him about the bells at
sea and the White Lady at the abbey he said very brusquely:-
fash masel' about them, miss. Them things be all wore out. Mind, I don't say
that they never was, but I do say that they wasn't in my time. They be all
very well for comers and trippers, an' the like, but not for a nice young
lady like you. Them feet-folks from York and Leeds that be always eatin' cured
herrin's an' drinkin' tea an' lookin' out to buy cheap jet would creed aught.
I wonder masel' who'd be bothered tellin' lies to them- even the newspapers,
which is full of fool-talk." I thought he would be a good person to learn
interesting things from, so I asked him if he would mind telling me something
about the whale-fishing in the old days. He was just settling himself to begin
when the clock struck six, whereupon he laboured to get up, and said:-
"I must gang
ageeanwards home now, miss. My grand-daughter doesn't like to be kept waitin'
when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to crammle aboon the grees, for
there be a many of 'em; an', miss, I lack belly-timber sairly by the clock."
He hobbled away,
and I could see him hurrying, as well as he could, down the steps. The steps
are a great feature of the place. They lead from the town up to the church;
there are hundreds of them- I do not know how many- and they wind up in a
delicate curve; the slope is so gentle that a horse could easily walk up and
down them. I think they must originally have had something to do with the
abbey. I shall go home too. Lucy went out visiting with her mother, and as
they were only duty calls, I did not go. They will be home by this.
1 August.- I came
up here an hour ago with Lucy, and we had a most interesting talk with my
old friend and the two others who always come and join him. He is evidently
the Sir Oracle of them, and I should think must have been in his time a most
dictatorial person. He will not admit anything, and downfaces everybody. If
he can't out-argue them he bullies them, and then takes their silence for
agreement with his views. Lucy was looking sweetly pretty in her white lawn
frock, she has got a beautiful colour since she has been here. I noticed that
the old men did not lose any time in coming up and sitting near her when we
sat down. She is so sweet with old people; I think they all fell in love with
her on the spot. Even my old man succumbed and did not contradict her, but
gave me double share instead. I got him on the subject of the legends, and
he went off at once into a sort of sermon. I must try to remember it and put
"It be all
fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel; that's what it be, an' nowt else. These
bans an' wafts an' boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles an' all anent them
is only fit to set bairns an' dizzy women a-belderin'. They be nowt but air-blebs.
They, an' all grims an' signs an' warnin's, be all invented by parsons an'
illsome beuk-bodies an' railway touters to skeer an' scunner hafflin's, an'
to get folks to do somethin' that they don't other incline to. It makes me
ireful to think o' them. Why, it's them that, not content with printin' lies
on paper an' preachin' them out of pulpits, does want to be cuttin' them on
the tombsteans. Look here all around you in what airt ye will; all them steans,
holdin' up their heads as well as they can out of their pride, is acant- simply
tumblin' down with the weight o' the lies wrote on them, 'Here lies the body'
or 'Sacred to the memory' wrote on all of them, an' yet in nigh half of them
there bean't no bodies at all; an' the memories of them bean't cared a pinch
of snuff about, much less sacred. Lies all of them, nothin' but lies of one
kind or another! My gog, but it'll be a quare scowderment at the Day of Judgment
when they come tumblin' up in their death-sarks, all jouped together an' tryin'
to drag their tombsteans with them to prove how good they was; some of them
trimmlin' and ditherin', with their hands that dozzened an' slippy from lyin'
in the sea that they can't even keep their grup o' them."
I could see from
the old fellow's self-satisfied air and the way in which he looked round for
the approval of his cronies that he was "showing off," so I put
in a word to keep him going:-
Swales, you can't be serious. Surely these tombstones are not all wrong?"
There may be a poorish few not wrong, savin' where they make out the people
too good; for there be folk that do think a balm-bowl be like the sea, if
only it be their own. The whole thing be only lies. Now look you here; you
come here a stranger, an' you see this kirk-garth." I nodded, for I thought
it better to assent, though I did not quite understand his dialect. I knew
it had something to do with the church. He went on: "And you consate
that all these steans be aboon folk that be happed here, snod an' snog?"
I assented again. "Then that be just where the lie comes in. Why, there
be scores of these lay-beds that be toom as old Dun's 'bacca-box on Friday
night." He nudged one of his companions, and they all laughed. "And
my gog! how could they be otherwise? Look at that one, the aftest abaft the
bier-bank; read it!" I went over and read:-
master mariner, murdered by pirates off the coast of Andres, April, 1854,
aet. 30." When I came back Mr. Swales went on:-
him home, I wonder, to hap him here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! an'
you consated his body lay under! Why, I could name ye a dozen whose bones
lie in the Greenland seas above"- he pointed northwards- "or where
the currents may have drifted them. There be the steans around ye. Ye can,
with your young eyes, read the small-print of the lies from here. This Braithwaite
Lowrey- I knew his father, lost in the Lively off Greenland in '20; or Andrew
Woodhouse, drowned in the same seas in 1777; or John Paxton, drowned off Cape
Farewell a year later; or old John Rawlings, whose grandfather sailed with
me, drowned in the Gulf of Finland in '50. Do ye think that all these men
will have to make a rush to Whitby when the trumpet sounds? I have me antherums
about it! I tell ye that when they got here they'd be jommlin' an' jostlin'
one another that way that it 'ud be like a fight up on the ice in the old
days, when we'd be at one another from daylight to dark, an' tryin' to tie
up our cuts by the light of the aurora borealis." This was evidently
local pleasantry, for the old man cackled over it, and his cronies joined
in with gusto.
I said, "surely you are not quite correct, for you start on the assumption
that all the poor people, or their spirits, will have to take their tombstones
with them on the Day of Judgment. Do you think that will be really necessary?"
else be they tombstones for? Answer me that, miss!"
their relatives, I suppose."
their relatives, you suppose!" This he said with intense scorn. "How
will it pleasure their relatives to know that lies is wrote over them, and
that everybody in the place knows that they be lies?" He pointed to a
stone at our feet which had been laid down as a slab, on which the seat was
rested, close to the edge of the cliff. "Read the lies on that thruff-stean,"
he said. The letters were upside down to me from where I sat, but Lucy was
more opposite to them, so she leant over and read:-
the memory of George Canon, who died, in the hope of a glorious resurrection,
on July 29, 1873, falling from the rocks at Kettleness. This tomb is erected
by his sorrowing mother to her dearly beloved son. 'He was the only son of
his mother, and she was a widow.'" "Really, Mr. Swales, I don't
see anything very funny in that!" She spoke her comment very gravely
and somewhat severely.
see aught funny! Ha! ha! But that's because ye don't gawm the sorrowin' mother
was a hell-cat that hated him because he was acrewk'd- a regular lamiter he
was- an' he hated her so that he committed suicide in order that she mightn't
get an insurance she put on his life. He blew night the top of his head off
with an old musket that they had for scarin' the crows with. 'Twarn't for
crows then, for it brought the clegs and the dowps to him. That's the way
he fell off the rocks. And, as to hopes of a glorious resurrection, I've often
heard him say masel' that he hoped he'd go to hell, for his mother was so
pious that she'd be sure to go to heaven, an' he didn't wan't to addle where
she was. Now isn't that stean at any rate"- he hammered it with his stick
as he spoke- "a pack of lies? and won't it make Gabriel keckle when Geordie
comes pantin' up the grees with the tombstean balanced on his hump, and asks
it to be took as evidence!"
I did not know
what to say, but Lucy turned the conversation as she said, rising up:-
"Oh why did
you tell us of this? it is my favorite seat, and I cannot leave it; and now
I find I must go on sitting over the grave of a suicide."
harm ye, my pretty; an' it may make poor Geordie gladsome to have so trim
a lass sittin' on his lap. That won't hurt ye. Why, I've sat here off an'
on for nigh twenty years past, an' it hasn't done me no harm. Don't ye fash
about them as lies under ye, or that doesn' lie there either! it'll be time
for ye to be getting scart when ye see the tombsteans all run away with, and
the place as bare as a stubble-field. There's the clock, an' I must gang.
My service to ye, ladies!" And off he hobbled.
Lucy and I sat
a while, and it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat;
and she told me all over again about Arthur and their coming marriage. That
made me just a little heart-sick, for I haven't heard from Jonathan for a
The same day.-
I came up here alone, for I am very sad. There was no letter for me. I hope
there cannot be anything the matter with
Jonathan. The clock has just struck nine. I see the lights scattered all over
the town, sometimes in rows where the streets are, and sometimes singly; they
run right up the Esk and die away in the curve of the valley. To my left the
view is cut off by a black line of roof of the old house next the abbey. The
sheep and lambs are bleating in the fields away behind me, and there is a
clatter of donkey's hoofs up the paved road below. The band on the pier is
playing a harsh waltz in good time, and further along the quay there is a
Salvation Army meeting in a back street. Neither of the bands hears the other,
but up here I hear and see them both. I wonder where Jonathan is and if he
is thinking of me! I wish he were here.
5 June.- The case
of Renfield grows more interesting the more I get to understand the man. He
has certain qualities very largely developed; selfishness, secrecy, and purpose.
I wish I could get at what is the object of the latter. He seems to have some
settled scheme of his own, but what it is I do not yet know. His redeeming
quality is a love of animals, though, indeed, he has such curious turns in
it that I sometimes imagine he is only abnormally cruel. His pets are of odd
sorts. Just now his hobby is catching flies. He has at present such a quantity
that I have had myself to expostulate. To my astonishment, he did not break
out into a fury, as I expected, but took the matter in simple seriousness.
He thought for a moment, and then said: "May I have three days? I shall
clear them away." Of course, I said that would do. I must watch him.
18 June.- He has
turned his mind now to spiders, and has got several big fellows in a box.
He keeps feeding them with his flies, and the number of the latter is becoming
sensibly diminished, although he has used half his food in attracting more
flies from outside to his room.
1 July.- His spiders
are now becoming as great a nuisance as his flies, and to-day I told him that
he must get rid of them. He looked very sad at this, so I said that he must
clear out some of them, at all events. He cheerfully acquiesced in this, and
I gave him the same time as before for reduction. He disgusted me much while
with him, for when a horrid blow-fly, bloated with some carrion food, buzzed
into the room, he caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between
his finger and thumb, and, before I knew what he was going to do, put it in
his mouth and ate it. I scolded him for it, but he argued quietly that it
was very good and very wholesome; that it was life, strong life, and gave
life to him. This gave me an idea, or the rudiment of one. I must watch how
he gets rid of his spiders. He has evidently some deep problem in his mind
for he keeps a little note-book in which he is always jotting down something.
Whole pages of it are filled with masses of figures, generally single numbers
added up in batches, and then the totals added in batches again, as though
he were "focussing" some account, as the auditors put it.
8 July.- There
is a method in his madness, and the rudimentary idea in my mind is growing.
It will be a whole idea soon, and then, oh, unconscious cerebration! you will
have to give the wall to your conscious brother. I kept away from my friend
for a few days, so that I might notice if there were any change. Things remain
as they were except that he has parted with some of his pets and got a new
one. He has managed to get a sparrow, and has already partially tamed it.
His means of taming is simple, for already the spiders have diminished. Those
that do remain, however, are well fed, for he still brings in the flies by
tempting them with his food.
19 July.- We are
progressing. My friend has now a whole colony of sparrows, and his flies and
spiders are almost obliterated. When I came in he ran to me and said he wanted
to ask me a great favor- a very, very great favor; and as he spoke he fawned
on me like a dog. I asked him what it was, and he said, with a sort of rapture
in his voice and bearing:-
a nice little, sleek, playful kitten, that I can play with, and teach, and
feed- and feed and feed!" I was not unprepared for this request, for
I had noticed how his pets went on increasing in size and vivacity, but I
did not care that his pretty family of tame sparrows should be wiped out in
the same manner as the flies and the spiders; so I said I would see about
it, and asked him if he would not rather have a cat than a kitten. His eagerness
betrayed him as he answered:-
I would like a cat! I only asked for a kitten lest you should refuse me a
cat. No one would refuse me a kitten, would they?" I shook my head, and
said that at present I feared it would not be possible, but that I would see
about it. His face fell, and I could see a warning of danger in it, for there
was a sudden fierce, sidelong, look which meant killing. The man is an undeveloped
homicidal maniac. I shall test him with his present craving and see how it
will work out; then I shall know more.
10 p.m.- I have
visited him again and found him sitting in a corner brooding. When I came
in he threw himself on his knees before me and implored me to let him have
a cat; that his salvation depended upon it. I was firm, however, and told
him that he could not have it, whereupon he went without a word, and sat down,
gnawing his fingers, in the corner where I had found him. I shall see him
in the morning early.
20 July.- Visited
Renfield very early, before the attendant went his rounds. Found him up and
humming a tune. He was spreading out his sugar, which he had saved, in the
window, and was manifestly beginning his fly-catching again; and beginning
it cheerfully and with a good grace. I looked around for his birds, and not
seeing them, asked him where they were. He replied, without turning round,
that they had all flown away. There were a few feathers about the room and
on his pillow a drop of blood. I said nothing, but went and told the keeper
to report to me if there were anything odd about him during the day.
11 a.m.- The attendant
has just been to me to say that Renfield has been very sick and has disgorged
a whole lot of feathers. "My belief is, doctor," he said, "that
he has eaten his birds, and that he just took and ate them raw!"
11 p.m.- I gave
Renfield a strong opiate to-night, enough to make even him sleep, and took
away his pocket-book to look at it. The thought that has been buzzing about
my brain lately is complete, and the theory proved. My homicidal maniac is
of a peculiar kind. I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and
call him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac; what he desires is to absorb as
many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative
way. He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then
wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps?
It would almost be worth while to complete the experiment. It might be done
if there were only a sufficient cause. Men sneered at vivisection, and yet
look at its results to-day! Why not advance science in its most difficult
and vital aspect- the knowledge of the brain? Had I even the secret of one
such mind- did I hold the key to the fancy of even one lunatic- I might advance
my own branch of science to a pitch compared with which Burdon-Sanderson's
physiology or Ferrier's brain-knowledge would be as nothing. If only there
were a sufficient cause! I must not think too much of this, or I may be tempted;
a good cause might turn the scale with me, for may not I too be of an exceptional
How well the man
reasoned; lunatics always do within their own scope. I wonder at how many
lives he values a man, or if at only one. He has closed the account most accurately,
and to-day begun a new record. How many of us begin a new record with each
day of our lives?
To me it seems
only yesterday that my whole life ended with my new hope, and that truly I
began a new record. So it will be until the Great Recorder sums me up and
closes my ledger account with a balance to profit or loss. Oh, Lucy, Lucy,
I cannot be angry with you' nor can I be angry with my friend whose happiness
is yours; but I must only wait on hopeless and work. Work! work!
If I only could
have as strong a cause as my poor mad friend there- a good, unselfish cause
to make me work- that would be indeed happiness.
26 July.- I am
anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here; it is like whispering to
one's self and listening at the same time. And there is also something about
the shorthand symbols that makes it different from writing. I am unhappy about
Lucy and about Jonathan. I had not heard from Jonathan for some time, and
was very concerned; but yesterday dear Mr. Hawkins, who is always so kind,
sent me a letter from him. I had written asking him if he had heard, and he
said the enclosed had just been received. It is only a line dated from Castle
Dracula, and says that he is just starting for home. That is not like Jonathan;
I do not understand it, and it makes me uneasy. Then, too, Lucy, although
she is so well, has lately taken to her old habit of walking in her sleep.
Her mother has spoken to me about it, and we have decided that I am to lock
the door of our room every night. Mrs. Westenra has got an idea that sleep-walkers
always go out on roofs of houses and along the edges of cliffs, and then get
suddenly wakened and fall over with a despairing cry that echoes all over
the place. Poor dear, she is naturally anxious about Lucy, and she tells me
that her husband, Lucy's father, had the same habit; that he would get up
in the night and dress himself and go out, if he were not stopped. Lucy is
to be married in the autumn, and she is already planning out her dresses and
how her house is to be arranged. I sympathize with her, for I do the same,
only Jonathan and I will start in life in a very simple way, and shall have
to try to make both ends meet. Mr. Holmwood- he is the Hon. Arthur Holmwood,
only son of Lord Godalming- is coming up here very shortly- as soon as he
can leave town, for his father is not very well, and I think dear Lucy is
counting the moments till he comes. She wants to take him up to the seat on
the churchyard cliff and show him the beauty of Whitby. I daresay it is the
waiting which disturbs her; she will be all right when he arrives.
27 July.- No news
from Jonathan. I am getting quite uneasy about him, though why I should I
do not know; but I do wish that he would write, if it were only a single line.
Lucy walks more than ever, and each night I am awakened by her moving about
the room. Fortunately, the weather is so hot that she cannot get cold; but
still the anxiety and the perpetually being wakened is beginning to tell on
me, and I am getting nervous and wakeful myself. Thank God, Lucy's health
keeps up. Mr. Holmwood has been suddenly called to Ring to see his father,
who has been taken seriously ill. Lucy frets at the postponement of seeing
him, but it does not touch her looks; she is a trifle stouter, and her cheeks
are a lovely rose pink. She has lost that anemic look which she had. I pray
it will all last.
3 August.- Another
week gone, and no news from Jonathan, not even to Mr. Hawkins, from whom I
have heard. Oh, I do hope he is not ill. He surely would have written. I look
at that last letter of his, but somehow it does not satisfy me. It does not
read like him, and yet it is his writing. There is no mistake of that. Lucy
has not walked much in her sleep the last week, but there is an odd concentration
about her which I do not understand; even in her sleep she seems to be watching
me. She tries the door, and finding it locked, goes about the room searching
for the key.
August.- Another three days, and no news. This suspense is getting dreadful.
If I only knew where to write to or where to go to, I should feel easier;
but no one has heard a word of Jonathan since that last letter. I must only
pray to God for patience. Lucy is more excitable than ever, but is otherwise
well. Last night was very threatening, and the fishermen say that we are in
for a storm. I must try to watch it and learn the weather signs. To-day is
a grey day, and the sun as I write is hidden in thick clouds, high over Kettleness.
Everything is gray- except the green grass, which seems like emerald amongst
it; gray earthy rock; gray clouds, tinged with the sunburst at the far edge,
hang over the gray sea, into which the sand-points stretch like gray fingers.
The sea is tumbling in over the shallows and the sandy flats with a roar,
muffled in the sea-mists drifting inland. The horizon is lost in a gray mist.
All is vastness; the clouds are piled up like giant rocks, and there is a
"brool" over the sea that sounds like some presage of doom. Dark
figures are on the beach here and there, sometimes half shrouded in the mist,
and seem "men like trees walking." The fishing-boats are racing
for home, and rise and dip in the ground swell as they sweep into the harbour,
bending to the scuppers. Here comes old Mr. Swales. He is making straight
for me, and I can see, by the way he lifts his hat, that he wants to talk...
have been quite touched by the change in the poor old man. When he sat down
beside me, he said in a very gentle way:- "I want to say something
to you, miss." I could see he was not at ease, so I took his poor old
wrinkled hand in mine and asked him to speak fully; so he said, leaving his
hand in mine:-
afraid, my deary, that I must have shocked you by all the wicked things I've
been sayin' about the dead, and such like, for weeks past; but I didn't mean
them, and I want ye to remember that when I'm gone. We aud folks that be daffled,
and with one foot abaft the krok-hooal, don't altogether like to think of
it, and we don't want to feel scart of it; an' that's why I've took to makin'
light of it, so that I'd cheer up my own heart a bit. But, Lord love ye, miss,
I ain't afraid of dyin', not a bit; only I don't want to die if I can help
it. My time must be nigh at hand now, for I be aud, and a hundred years is
too much for any man to expect; and I'm so nigh it that the Aud Man is already
whettin' his scythe. Ye see, I can't get out o' the habit of affin' about
it all at once: the chafts will wag as they be used to. Some day soon the
Angel of Death will sound his trumpet for me. But don't ye dooal an' greet,
my deary!"- for he saw that I was crying- "if he should come this
very night I'd not refuse to answer his call. For life be, after all, only
a waitin' for somethin' else than what we're doin'; and death be all that
we can rightly depend on. But I'm content, for it's comin' to me, my deary,
and comin' quick. It may be comin' while we be lookin' and wonderin'. Maybe
it's in that wind out over the sea that's bringin' with it loss and wreck,
and sore distress, and sad hearts. Look! look!" he cried suddenly. "There's
something in that wind and in the hoast beyont that sounds, and looks, and
tastes, and smells like death. It's in the air, I feel it comin. Lord, make
me answer cheerful when my call comes!" He held up his arms devoutly,
and raised his hat. His mouth moved as though he were praying. After a few
minutes' silence, he got up, shook hands with me, and blessed me, and said
good-bye, and hobbled off. It all touched me, and upset me very much.
was glad when the coastguard came along, with his spyglass under his arm.
He stopped to talk with me, as he always does, but all the time kept looking
at a strange ship.
can't make her out," he said; "she's a Russian, by the look of her;
but she's knocking about in the queerest way. She doesn't know her mind a
bit; she seems to see the storm coming, but can't decide whether to run up
north in the open, or to put in here. Look there again! She is steered mighty
strangely, for she doesn't mind the hand on the wheel; changes about with
every puff of wind. We'll hear more of her before this time to-morrow."
Original Gothic Novel
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