Dracula, chapter 19

A few minutes later I saw Morris step suddenly back from a corner, which he was examining. We all followed his movements with our eyes, for undoubtedly some nervousness was growing on us, and we saw a whole mass of phosphorescence, which twinkled like stars. We all instinctively drew back. The whole place was becoming alive with rats.

For a moment or two we stood appalled, all save Lord Godalming, who was seemingly prepared for such an emergency. Rushing over to the great iron-bound oaken door, which Dr. Seward had described from the outside, and which I had seen myself, he turned the key in the lock, drew the huge bolts, and swung the door open. Then, taking his little silver whistle from his pocket, he blew a low, shrill call. It was answered from behind Dr. Seward's house by the yelping of dogs, and after about a minute three terriers came dashing round the corner of the house. Unconsciously we had all moved towards the door, and as we moved I noticed that the dust had been much disturbed. The boxes which had been taken out had been brought this way. But even in the minute that had elapsed the number of the rats had vastly increased. They seemed to swarm over the place all at once, till the lamplight, shining on their moving dark bodies and glittering, baleful eyes, made the place look like a bank of earth set with fireflies. The dogs dashed on, but at the threshold suddenly stopped and snarled, and then, simultaneously lifting their noses, began to howl in most lugubrious fashion. The rats were multiplying in thousands, and we moved out.

Lord Godalming lifted one of the dogs, and carrying him in, placed him on the floor. The instant his feet touched the ground he seemed to recover his courage, and rushed at his natural enemies. They fled before him so fast that before he had shaken the life out of a score, the other dogs, who had by now been lifted in the same manner, had but small prey ere the whole mass had vanished.

With their going it seemed as if some evil presence had departed, for the dogs frisked about and barked merrily as they made sudden darts at their prostrate foes, and turned them over and over and tossed them in the air with vicious shakes. We all seemed to find our spirits rise. Whether it was the purifying of the deadly atmosphere by the opening of the chapel door, or the relief which we experienced by finding ourselves in the open I know not, but most certainly the shadow of dread seemed to slip from us like a robe, and the occasion of our coming lost something of its grim significance, though we did not slacken a whit in our resolution. We closed the outer door and barred and locked it, and bringing the dogs with us, began our search of the house. We found nothing throughout except dust in extraordinary proportions, and all untouched save for my own footsteps when I had made my first visit. Never once did the dogs exhibit any symptom of uneasiness, and even when we returned to the chapel they frisked about as though they had been rabbit hunting in a summer wood.

The morning was quickening in the east when we emerged from the front. Dr. Van Helsing had taken the key of the hall door from the bunch, and locked the door in orthodox fashion, putting the key into his pocket when he had done.

"So far," he said, "our night has been eminently successful. No harm has come to us such as I feared might be and yet we have ascertained how many boxes are missing. More than all do I rejoice that this, our first, and perhaps our most difficult and dangerous, step has been accomplished without the bringing thereinto our most sweet Madam Mina or troubling her waking or sleeping thoughts with sights and sounds and smells of horror which she might never forget.One lesson, too, we have learned, if it be allowable to argue a particulari, that the brute beasts which are to the Count's command are yet themselves not amenable to his spiritual power, for look, these rats that would come to his call, just as from his castle top he summon the wolves to your going and to that poor mother's cry, though they come to him, they run pell-mell from the so little dogs of my friend Arthur. We have other matters before us, other dangers, other fears, and that monster . . . He has not used his power over the brute world for the only or the last time tonight. So be it that he has gone elsewhere. Good! It has given us opportunity to cry `check' in some ways in this chess game, which we play for the stake of human souls. And now let us go home. The dawn is close at hand, and we have reason to be content with our first night's work. It may be ordained that we have many nights and days to follow, if full of peril, but we must go on, and from no danger shall we shrink."





Appendix to “Dracula’s Dogs”


Count Dracula, we know, has special supernatural powers that distinguish him from ordinary folk.  For instance, he can travel invisibly or as mist, avoiding the prying eyes of suspicious mortals.  Of course, our band of heroes can also travel incognito, provided that they use anonymous cabs instead of Lord Godalming's ostentatious carriages--and they can break into buildings without arousing suspicion in the plain light of day.  Dracula "can command all the meaner things: the rat, and the wolf, and the bat--the moth, the fox, and the wolf" (305).  But of course, so can our heroes--one blast of Lord Godalming's silver whistle, and a squadron of savage terriers appears to disperse Dracula's army of rats.  Dracula, certainly, can overawe the simpleminded and cause them to do his will--the madman Renfield, his gypsy bearers, even the not overly intelligent Harker.  Predictably, though, the vampire hunters have a similar resource--Lord Godalming's name is always sufficient to cow the average English tradesman or the odd Vice-Consul into breaking his confidentiality and revealing some crucial bit of information.

            The similarity between Dracula and Van Helsing has long been noted in Dracula criticism--the Bad Father and the Good Father, both of them distinguished from the rest by their uncertain command of English idiom.  I would suggest that what needs investigation is the resemblance between the novel's two aristocrats, Dracula and Godalming--particularly since Godalming, after he inherits his title, never contributes a line to the novel's heterogeneous narration.  Every other character produces a diary or a letter or a memorandum, except Dracula.

            The two aristocrats are alike also in their enormous wealth and the use to which they put it; both Dracula and Lord G., the latter acting on behalf of his allies, spend freely to secure the assistance of agents, solicitors, and sea captains, and especially to enlist the loyalty and strong backs of a working class that is represented by Stoker as perpetually thirsty, that is, as a class of drunken proles pathetically susceptible to bribery.  When Harker observes, upon his return to Romania, "Thank God! this is the country where bribery can do anything, and we are well supplied with money" (429), it's clear that he just hasn't been paying attention.  Every scrap of information that he and his band have acquired about the Count's whereabouts, movements, possessions and plans, from Whitby to Varna, has been information they've paid for.  Again, the difference between England and Transylvania turns out to be more the product of willful ignorance than an actual cultural divide--or in Harker's case willful repression, given his efforts on the wrong side early in the novel.