Dracula – Part 12 – Mina Murray’s Journal

This is the dark tale of Count Dracula, told through chilling journal entries. It starts with Jonathan Harker’s visit to the Count’s castle.

Chapter 6

Mina Murray’s Journal

July 24,

Today, I am in Whitby. Lucy met me at the station, looking sweeter and lovelier than ever. 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 bridge runs across it. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that if you stood on the edge, you could see straight down. The houses of the old town are all red-roofed and seem to pile up over each other.

Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was pillaged by the Danes. It is a noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that you can see a ghost lady in one of the windows.

Between the ruin and the town, there is another church. It it round with a big graveyard full of tombstones. To my mind, this is the nicest spot in Whitby because it lies right over the town on a cliff, and has a full view of the harbor and the sea. The cliff is so steep over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. There are pathways with benches throughout the churchyard, and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I will come and sit here very often by myself and work. Indeed, I am sitting here right now, writing with my journal on my knees, and listening to the conversation of three old men who are sitting near me. They seem to do nothing all day but sit up here and talk.

The harbor lies below me. It has one long granite wall that stretches out into the sea and curves outwards at the end, and in the middle of it, there is a lighthouse. Another wall runs in other direction with a lighthouse on the end. Between the two piers, there is a narrow opening into the harbor. The lighthouses have bells which swing in bad weather, and send out a mournful sound in the wind. The people here have a legend 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 now…

He is a funny old man. He must be awfully old because his face is all gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree. He tells me that he is nearly a hundred years old, and that he was a sailor in the Greenland fishing fleet when Waterloo was fought. He is, I am afraid, a very skeptical person. When I asked him about the bells as sea and the ghost lady at the abbey, he said very bluntly:

“Don’t worry about them, miss. Those things are all worn out. Mind, I’m not saying the legends never were true, but I’ve never seen or heard anything in my lifetime. I don’t know who would be bothered to tell lies to all the newspapers and tourists. It’s all foolish talk.”

He didn’t give me any information on the legends, but I still 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 down on the bench to begin talking when the clock struck six. He laboriously stood up, and said:

“I must get going home now, miss. My granddaughter doesn’t like to be kept waiting when the tea is ready.”

He hobbled away. I could see him hurrying, as fast as he could, down the steps.

The steps are a great feature of this place. They lead from the town up to the church. There are hundreds of them—I don’t know exactly 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 should get going, too. Lucy went out earlier with her mother to visit some acquaintances in town. They should be back by now.

August 1,

I came up to the churchyard an hour ago with Lucy, and we had a most interesting talk the old man and the two others who always come and join him. He is evidently the Sir Oracle of them. When he was younger, he must have been quite a dictatorial person. He will not admit anything, and he talks down to everybody. If he can’t win an argument, he’ll bully them until they are silent.

Lucy was looking sweet and pretty in her white dress and her skin has become a beautiful color since she’s 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. Instead, he directed all his arguments at me. When I got them on the subject of the legends, he dove into a sort of lecture or sermon. I must try to remember what he said:

“It’s all foolish talk. Fools, fools, fools! That’s what it is and nothing else. These ghosts and bells and hauntings and whispers and rumors and spirits and monsters—they are only fit to make women dizzy with fright. They are nothing but air. Nothing. And all those grim reapers and signs and warnings and omens. They are all invented by some persons. People who have got too much time and looking for trouble. They are just trying to get folks to do something or feel something. It makes me sick to think of them. Why! They are so content with printing lies on paper and preaching to everyone. Look all around you here at this graveyard. All of them with big tombstones full of pride. These stones are so heavy that I’m surprised they don’t sink right into the ground. They should be falling down under the weight of their lies. And look at these tombstones. ‘Here lies the body’ or ’Sacred to the memory’ is written on all of them. Yet, in half of them, there isn’t even a body under there. Most of their bodies were lost at sea. Sacred memory? What memory! Nobody cares to remember them. And when the Day of Judgement comes, these townsfolk will drag their beautiful tombstones with them trying to prove how good they were.”

I could see from the old man’s self-satisfied expression and the way he looked around for approval that he was showing off. So, I put in a word to keep him going:

“Oh, Mr. Swales, you can’t be serious. Surely these tombstones are not all wrong?”

“Ha! There may be a few that are not wrong. Maybe there were a few good people out there with the truth written on their tombstones. But the whole graveyard is only lies. Now, you listen. You, a stranger, came here and saw this kirk-garth-“

I nodded, even though I didn’t understand the word through his thick accent. I thought it would be better to just play the part of a good listener.

He went on: “And you listen to all these foolish stories and legends that the folks say happened here, and you let them speak?”

I nodded again.

“Then that’s just where all the lies come in. You hear the stories and read the newspapers and that’s the end of it.”

He nudged one of his companions, and they all laughed.

“And my God! Of course they all believe it. Look at that one, the stone over there. Read it!”

I went over to the tombstone he was pointing at and read:

“Edward Spenchelagh, master mariner, murdered by pirates off the coast of Andres. April, 1854. 30 years old.”

When I came back, Mr. Swales went on:

“Who brought him home, I wonder, to bury his body here? Murdered off the coast of Andres! And you think his body lies here? No, all their bodies are in the sea or their bones have washed up wherever the currents took them. And look at that one. You can, with your young eyes, read the small print from here. Braighwaite Lowrey—I knew his father—lost in the Lively off Greenland in 1820. Or Andrew Woodhouse, drowned in the same seas in 1777. Or John Paxton, downed off Cape Farewell a year later. Or old John Raweling, whose grandfather sailed with me, downed in the Gulf of Finland in 1850. When the Day of Judgement comes, do you think their souls will rush back here? I have my doubts about that! There would be a line of them from here to the horizon trying to grab up their tombstones.”

The old man and his friends laughed together.

“But,” I said, “surely you are not quite correct. You start with the assumption that all the poor people, or their spirits, will have to take their tombstones with them on the Day of Judgement. Do you think that will be really necessary?”

“Well, what else are those tombstones for? Answer me that, miss!”

“To make their relatives happy, I suppose.”

“To make their relatives happy, you suppose!” He said it with intense scorn. “And how happy will their relatives be to know that lies are written all over them, and that everybody in the place knows that they are lies?” He pointed to a stone that was laid down right under the bench where we sat. “Read the lies on that.”

Lucy was closer, so she leaned over and read:

“Sacred to 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 was erected by his sorrowing mother to her dearly beloved son. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”

Lucy looked up and said gravely, “Really, Mr. Swales, I don’t see anything very funny in that!”

“You don’t see what’s funny? Ha! But that’s because you don’t know the sorrowing mother. She was a hell cat that hated him be he a crewman. And he hated her back so much that he committed suicide so that she couldn’t collect the insurance that she put on his life. He took a musket and used it to shoot himself. The top of his head blew off and he fell down off the rocks. And as for ‘in the hope of a glorious resurrection,’ I used to hear him say that he wish he went to hell because his mother was so religious that she was sure to go to heaven, and he didn’t want to go where she was. Now, if that stone isn’t a pack of lies, I don’t know what is! Now, can you imagine little George’s spirit climbing up this cliff to grab that stone to show the Lord?”

I didn’t know what to say, but Lucy rose up and said:

“Oh, why did you tell us that? This is my favorite seat, and I cannot leave it. And now, I must keep sitting over the grave of a suicide.”

“That won’t harm you, my pretty. And it might make poor George happy to have some pretty girl sitting on his lap. That won’t hurt you. Oh, I’ve sat here off and on for about twenty years, and it hasn’t done me any harm. Don’t you fret about those lies under you, either. One day, when the spirits run away with their tombstones, this place will be as bare as a field. Oh, there’s the clock. I have to go. It was a joy speaking with you, ladies!” And he hobbled off.

Lucy and I sat awhile. The view over the sea was so beautiful that we held 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 because I haven’t heard from Jonathan for a whole month.

The same day,

I came up here alone, because I am very sad. There was no letter for me. I hope something hasn’t happened to 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 individually. The lights run along the Esk river and die away in the curve of the valley. To my left, the view is cut off by the black line of roof of the old house next to the abbey. The sheep and lambs are calling out in the fields behind me, and there is a clatter of a donkey’s hoofs on the paved road below. The band on the pier is playing a waltz, and further along the road, another group is singing Christian songs. Neither of the bands hears the other, but up here I can hear and see them both. I wonder where Jonathan is and if he is thinking of me! I wish he were here.


Published by Judy Shinohara

Hello! I’m Judy, living in Osaka! I love teaching English to my students. In my free time, I enjoy simple gardening, reading and writing, art, and watching Netflix.

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