|WILLOW'S MAGPIE No. 56|
Count Dracula of Transylvania, Drackie to his friends, had had great fun tormenting his English visitor, the solicitor John Harker. Harker had given him plenty of legal advice regarding a proposed purchase of land over the border in Bukovina and was becoming a bore. Drackie wanted to visit England but for some reason Harker was totally opposed to the idea. He said it had something to do with Drackie’s best lady friends, also known as the ‘Brides of Dracula’ and Drackie’s habit of spending the night over a flagon or two of wholesome Dragon’s Blood. Drackie had had to lock Harker in his room for his own safety. There was also the question of Harker’s intended, the insipid Mina, who insisted that she should join Harker and fetch him home to England.
Drackie took one look at her; usually very fond of the ladies, he shuddered at the thought of nibbling her neck amorously, too bloodless by half, these English women. He much preferred the buxom, lively gypsy girls he employed in his castle. The castle was another reason he wanted to go off on a visit to England; the place was a crumbling ruin, falling to bits while he watched. It was high time he found himself one of these English builders who advertised themselves as specialist renovators and refurbishers of ancient monuments. A spot of interior decorating wouldn’t go amiss either.
Harker’s objections notwithstanding, Drackie took passage on the Demeter which was sailing to Whitby. He took a box of his favourite silver sand and earth; both were needed to acquaint English workmen with the kind of material they'd find in Transylvania.
Once in England, Drackie made his way to a group of friends of Harker’s and a couple of girls. One of the girls, Lucy, was no better than she should be, if I tell you that she was keeping three men dangling after her, you’ll understand what I’m saying. Drackie had a go too, they soon hit it off and Drackie was up to his old tricks, imbibing merrily. The other chaps were very jealous, as you can imagine and planned to do away with Drackie once and for all.
To this end they hired a Dutch chap, Van Helsing, who had form and knew all about assassination. In order to lull Drackie into a false sense of security they invited him to dinner at Quincey’s, an American chap, who was one of the conspirators. Van Helsing suggested the menu and they agreed to feed Drackie on mushrooms in garlic butter, garlic chicken and red onion marmalade, and for dessert a delicious garlic-cranberry-orange ice cream. A very fine old Burgundy was poured with a lavish hand. Candles flickered, a fire burnt in the deep grate and bouquets of flowers, artfully arranged and tied to polished, sharpened stakes stood in tall vases.
Drackie ate and drank like never before. He was amazed at the flavours he was experiencing, the ambience of the room knocked him for six. He looked round admiringly, taking it all in avidly. Exactly this is how he saw his castle, he must find out who had been the guiding hand behind this lavish décor. Hang the expense, he must have the finest workmen and take them to Transylvania.
He sucked on a garlic clove. As the succulent flesh melted in his mouth, his whole being mellowed. One by one, he gazed at his fellow diners. His throat constricted and his eyes misted over. A single tear ran down his cheek, try as he might to control it.
“My dear friends,” he croaked, “ my heart is heavy with remorse. Forgive me for treating you and your hospitality with disdain. Never again will I hurt your feelings, nay, the feelings of any man, woman or child. You have shown me such kindness, such generosity of spirit, that my shame overwhelms me. Henceforth it shall be my one desire to emulate you and do all in my power to take your civilising influence and apply it to every walk of life in my poor, backward country.”
When Drackie finished his speech, the conspirators looked at each other.
Van Helsing spoke. “Damn”, he said, “now what”.