Tue
Dec 18 2012 5:00pm

The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker (Excerpt)

John Edgar Browning

Check out this excerpt from The Lost Writings of Bram Stoker, edited by John Edgar Browning, out on December 24:

Presented here, for the first time since their publication over a century ago, are twelve previously unknown published works of fiction, poetry, and journalistic writing by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), three works by Stoker never before reprinted, twelve obscure period writings about Stoker, and the exceptionally rare 1913 estate sale catalogue of Stoker's personal library.

Through both the original works and extensive archival research presented, this vital collection sheds new light on an enigmatic writer and rejects the view that Dracula is Stoker's only legacy worth consideration. The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker underscores not only the intertexuality between Dracula and the other works, but supports the exciting prospect that Stoker's periodical writings account for a much greater force in his literary repertoire than previously accepted.

A must-read for Stoker fans and scholars, this collection offers an important window into fin-de-siècle Gothic literature.

Chapter Three

OLD HOGGEN: A MYSTERY (1893)

Bram Stoker

 

“If he had half the spirit of a man in him, he would go himself,” said my mother-in-law.

“Indeed, I think you might, Augustus. I know I often deny myself and make efforts to please you; and you know that my dear mamma loves crabs,” said my mother-in-law’s daughter.

“Far be it from me to interfere,” said Cousin Jemima, as they call her, smoothing down her capstrings as she spoke. “But I do think that it would be well if Cousin Kate, who, like myself, is not at all so strong as she looks—could have something to tempt her appetite.”

Cousin Jemima, who was my mother-in-law’s cousin, was as robust as a Swiss guide, and had the appetite and digestion of a wild Indian. I began to get riled.

“What on earth are you all talking about?” said I. “One would think you were all suffering some terrible wrong. You want crabs—and you are actually now engaged on bolting one of the biggest crabs I ever saw. What does it all mean? Unless, indeed, you want merely to annoy me!”

Here my mother-in-law laid down her fork in a majestic way and glared at me, saying:

“If there are no crabs nearer than Bridport, then you must go there,” while her daughter began to cry.

This, of course, settled the matter. When my mother-in-law has a go in at me I can—although it makes me uncomfortable and unhappy—stand it; but when her daughter cries, I am done; so I made an effort by an attempt at jocularity—feeble, though, it was—to grace my capitulation and go out with the honors of war.

“I shall get you some crabs,” said I, “my dear mother-in-law, which even you will not be able to vanquish—or even, Cousin Jemima, with her feeble digestion.”

They all looked very glum, so I made another effort.

“Yes,” I went on. “I shall bring you some giant crabs, even if I have to find old Hoggen first.”

The only answer made in words was by my mother-in-law, who cut in sharply: “If Old Hoggen was as great a brute as you, I don’t wonder that he has got rid of—”

Cousin Jemima indorsed the sentiment with a series of sniffs and silences, as eloquent and expressive as the stars and negative chapters of Tristram Shandy. Lucy looked at me, but it was a good look, more like my wife’s, and less like that of my mother-in-law’s daughter than had hitherto been, so tacitly we became a linked battalion.

There was a period of silence, which was broken by my mother-in-law: “I do not see—I fail to see why you will always introduce that repulsive subject.”

As she began the battle, and as Lucy was now on my side, I did not shun the fight, but made a counter attack.

“Crabs?” I asked interrogatively, in a tone which I felt to be dangerous.

“No, not crabs—how dare you call the subject of my food—and you know how delicate an appetite I have—disgusting—”

“Well, what do you mean?” I inquired, again showing the green lamps.

“I call ‘disgusting’ the subject of conversation on which you always harp—that disreputable old man whom they say was murdered. I have made inquiries—many inquiries—concerning him, and I find that his life was most disreputable. Some of the details of his low amours which I have managed to find out are most improper. What do you think, Cousin Jemima—”

Here she whispered to the other old dear, who eagerly inclined her ear to listen.

“No, really! seventeen? What a wretched old man,” and Cousin Jemima became absorbed in a moral reverie.

My mother-in-law went on:

“When you, Augustus, bring perpetually before our notice the name of this wicked man, you affront your wife.”

Here the worm, which had hitherto been squirming about trying to imagine that it was built on the lines of a serpent, which can threaten and strike, turned, and I spoke.

“I do not think it is half so bad to mention a topic of common interest, and which is forced upon us every hour of every day since we came here, as it is for you to make such a charge. I respect and love my wife too much”—here I pulled Lucy toward me, who came willingly—“to affront her even by accident. And, moreover, I think, Madam, that it would be better if, instead of making such preposterous and monstrous charges, you would give me a little peace to my meals by holding your tongue and giving yourself an opportunity of getting tired and sick of crabs. I have not sat down to a meal since I came here that you have not spoiled it with your quarrelling. You quite upset my digestion. Can’t you let me alone?”

The effect of the attack was appalling.

My mother-in-law, who by this time had finished the last morsel of the crab, sat for a moment staring and speechless, and for the only time in her life burst into tears.

Her tears were not nearly so effective upon me as Lucy’s, and I sat unmoved. Cousin Jemima, with an inborn tendency to rest secure on the domineering side, said, audibly:

“Served you quite right, Cousin Kate, for interrupting the man at his supper.”

Lucy said nothing, but looked at me sympathetically.

Presently my mother-in-law, with a great effort, pulled herself together and said:

“Well, Augustus, perhaps you are right. We have suffered enough about Old Hoggen to make his name familiar to us.”

Indeed we suffered. The whole history of old Hoggen had for some weeks past been written on our soul in the darkest shade of ink. We had come to Charmouth hoping to find in that fair spot the peace that we yearned for after the turmoil and troubles of the year. With the place we were more than satisfied, for it is a favored spot. In quiet, lazy, Dorsetshire it lies. Close to the sea, but sheltered from its blasts. The long straggling village of substantial houses runs steeply down the hillside parallel to the seaboard. Everywhere are rivulets of sweet water, [and] everywhere are comfort and seeming plenty. [The] smiling and industrious peasantry are the normal inhabitants among whom the good old customs of salutation have not died away. A town-made coat enacts a bob curtsey from the females and a salute in military fashion from the men, for the young men are all militia or volunteers.

We had been at Charmouth some three weeks. Our arrival had caused us to swell with importance, for, from the time we left Axminster in the diurnal omnibus till our being deposited at our pretty cottage, [fl] owered in enticing greenery and rich with [ . . . ] world flowers, our advent seemed to [in]cite interest and attention. Naturally I surmised that the rustic mind was overcome by the evidence of metropolitan high [ . . . ]m/ ne manifested in our cloths and [...]. Lucy put it down—in her own mind which her mother kindly interpreted [fo]r her—to the striking allthe-world-over effect of surpassing loveliness. Cousin Jemima attributed it to their respect for blood; and my mother-in-law took [it a]s a just homage to the rare, if not [uni]que, union of birth, grace, gentleness, [bre] eding, talent, wisdom, culture and [po]wer—as embodied in herself. We soon [fou]nd, however, that there was a cause different from all these.

There had lately come to light certain circumstances tending to show that we [ar]e objects of suspicion rather than veneration.

Some days before our arrival great ex[cite]ment had been caused in Charmouth [at] the disappearance, and, consequently, [depl]ored murder, of an old inhabitant, one Jabez Hoggen, reputed locally to be of vast wealth and miserly in the extreme. This [...] reputation brought him much esteem, [not i]n Charmouth alone, but through [whol]e country round from Lyme Regis on the one hand even as far as distant Bridport on the other.

When inland the trumpet note of old Hoggen’s wealth sounded to Axminster [and] even to Chard. This good repute of wealth was, however, the only good repute he had, for his social misdoings were so [two] fold and continuous as to interest [all] the social stars of Lyme. These are [the l]adies who inhabit the snug villas in [the u]plands at Lyme, and who claim as [their] special right the covered seats on the [...]rts walk of that pretty town, and who [are s]o select that they will not even associate with others except in massed groups [ . . . ]stulm. Old Hoggen’s peccadilloes afforded them a fertile theme for gossip. [ . . . ] was an inexhaustible store of minute [ . . . ] wicked details of this famous sinner. [Yea] r after year old Hoggen moved [amon]g the law-abiding inhabitants of Charmouth, wallowing in his wickedness [ . . . ]ding to his store of goods in the here [and] in the hereafter.

[Str]ange to say, all this time not once—[not] even once—did the earth yawn and [swall]ow him. On the contrary, he flour[ished.] No matter what weather came [alway]s benefited. Even if the rain did [ . . . ] y one of his crops, it made [...]r to flourish exceedingly. When [there] was storm he accumulated sea rack; [when t]here was calm he got fish. Many of [his nei]ghbors began to have serious doubts [of] the earth ever yawning    and    swallowing    [ . . . ]t    all;    and    even    the    old    ladies    in    [Lyme] Regis—those who had passed the age [...]posals and begun to regret, or at least [to pon]der, their youth, sometimes thought [that p]erhaps immortality was a little too [ . . . ]y condemned after all.

[Sudd]enly this old man disappeared, and [Charm]outh woke up to the fact that he was [the be]st known, the most respected, the [most i] mportant person in the place. His [...]og sank into insignificance, and his    [ . . . ]tood    revealed    in    gigantic    propor[tion.]    Men    pointed    out    his public spirit, [...]arms he had instituted, the powers [he had] developed; women called attention [to the t]enderness he had always exhibited [to each] sex, unworthy as had been the ex[...] of the same that had darkened the [...] of his life. More than one wise matron was heard to remark that if his lot in life had been to meet one good woman, instead of those hussies, his manner of life might have been different.

It is a fact worthy of notice that in the logic of might-have-been, which is pitying woman’s pathway to heaven, the major premise is pitying woman.

However, were his life good or ill, old Hoggen had disappeared: and murder was naturally suspected. Two suppositions—no one knew whence originating—were current. The most popular was that some of his unhappy companions, knowing of his wealth and greedy of his big gold watch and his diamond ring, had incited to his murder other still more disreputable companions. The alternative belief was that some of his relations—for he was believed to have some, although no one had ever seen or heard of them—had quietly removed him so that in due time they might in legal course become possessed of his heritage.

Consequent upon the latter supposition suspicion attached itself to every new comer. It was but natural that the vulture-like relatives should appear upon the scene as soon as possible, and eager eyes scanned each fresh arrival. As I soon discovered, my respected connection by marriage, Cousin Jemima, bore a strong resemblance to the missing man, and drew around our pretty resting place the whole curiosity of Charmouth and concentrated there the attention of the secret myrmidons of the law.

In fact, the Charmouth policeman haunted the place, and strange men in slop clothes and regulation boots came from Bridport and Lyme Regis, and even from Axminster itself.

These latter representatives of the intellectual subtlety of Devon. Dorset and Wilts were indeed men full of wile and cunning of device. The bucolic mind in moments of unbending, when frank admission of incompleteness is a tribute to good fellowship, may sometimes admit that its workings are slow, but even in the last stage of utter and conscious drunkenness one quality is insisted on—surety.

Of surety, in simple minds the correlative is tenacity of purpose and belief.

Thus it was that when once the idea of our guilt had been mooted and received, no amount of evidence, direct or circumstantial, could obliterate the idea from the minds of the rustic detectives. These astute men, one by one, each jealous of the other, and carrying on even among themselves the fiction of non-identification, began to seek the evidences of our guilt. It struck me as a curious trait in the inhabitants of the diocese of Salisbury that their primary intellectual effort had one tendency, and that all their other efforts were subordinate to this principle. It may have been that the idea arose from historical contemplation of the beauty of their cathedral and an unconscious effort to emulate the powers of its originators.

Or it may not have been.

But, at all events, their efforts took the shape of measuring. I fail myself to see how their measurements, be they never so accurate, could in anywise have helped them. Further, I cannot comprehend how the most rigid and exact scrutiny in this respect could have even suggested a combination of facts whence a spontaneous idea could have emanated. Still, they measured, never ceasing day or night for more than a week, and always surreptitiously. They measured one night the whole of the outside of our cottage. I heard them in the night, out on the roof, crawling about like gigantic cats, and, although we learned that one man had fallen off the roof and broken his arm, we were never officially informed of the fact. They made incursions into the house, under various pretexts, there to endeavor to measure the interior.

In every case a ruse was adopted. One morning, while we were out bathing, a man called to measure the gas pipes, and, after going through several of the rooms taking the dimensions of the walls, was informed by the servant that there was no gas, not only in the house, but in the village. Not being prepared with a further excuse, he said, with that nonchalance he could assume, that “it was no matter,” and went away. Another time a British workman, as he styled himself, arrayed in cricket flannels and a straw hat, came to look at the kitchen boiler for the landlord, and asked that he might begin on the roof. I saw the inevitable rule and tape measure, and told him that the landlord’s house was next door, and that he would find the boiler buried in the garden. He withdrew, thanking me with effusion, and making a note of the words “buried in the garden” in his notebook.

Another day a man called with fish—he had only one sole and that he carried in his hand. The cook was out and I told him we would have it. He asked if he might go into the garden to skin it. I told him he might, and went out. When I came back in about an hour’s time, I found him there still, measuring away. He had got all the dimensions of the garden and the walls, and was now engaged on the heights of the various flowers. I asked him what the dickens he was doing there still, and why he was measuring. He answered vaguely that he was not measuring.

“Why, man alive,” said I, “don’t tell me such a story—I saw you at it—why, you are doing it still,” as indeed he was.

He stood up and answered me: “Well, sir, I will tell you why. I was looking to see if I could find room to bury the skin of the sole.”

He had not skinned the sole, which lay on a flag in the hot sunshine, and was beginning to look glassy.

They even measure as well as they could the height of the members of the family. When any of us passed a wall where any of these men were, he immediately spotted some place on the wall of equal height: and the moment we passed, out rule and measured it.

Our cook was asked one night by a tall man to lay her head on his shoulder. She did so, as she told us afterward being so surprised that she did not know what to do. When she came in we saw on her black stuff bonnet a series of reversed numbers in chalk dying away over the temple with   5ft. 61⁄2in.

Cousin Jemima, who was of a full habit of body—to say the least of it—was one evening stopped in the lane by two men, who put their arms round her waist from opposite sides. She distinctively said that they had something that looked like a long rope marked in yards, or, as she persisted, in chains, which, when she had escaped from them, they examined with seeming anxiety, and made some entry in books which they carried, laughing all the time heartily and digging each other in the ribs as they pointed at her.

Our dog was often measured, and one afternoon there was a terrible caterwauling, which we found to arise from a respectable man trying to weigh out cat in an ouncel, borrowed from a neighboring shop.

My mother-in-law, who had no suspicion whatever that she was an object of suspicion, waxed at times furiously indignant at the rudeness of the loiterers round our door, and now and again comported herself so violently as to cause them serious fright. I was unaware during the time of my courtship that this remarkable woman possessed such a power of invective. She certainly proved herself a consummate actress in concealing it as she did: for during that time of rapture and agony I enjoyed the contemplation and experienced the practical outcome of a sympathy and sweetness as ripe as unalloyed. My wife and I both understand the motives of the local detectives, and always recognized them under their disguises. It was a never ending source of mirth to us to enjoy the spectacle of Cousin Jemima’s ungratified curiosity, and of my mother-in-law’s periodic anger. For the purposes of our own amusement we filled up the daily blanks caused by the slackness of the executive in keeping perpetually before them the theme of old Hoggen. I amused myself by keeping a little note book in which I jotted down all kinds of odd measurements for the purpose of leaving it about sometime to puzzle the detectives.

Thus it came about that the repulsive individuality of old Hoggen became, in a manner, of interest to us, and his name to be interwoven in the web of our daily converse.

I knew that to mention old Hoggen to my mother-in-law, when previously influenced by hunger or any collateral vexation, would have the effect of a red rag on a bull, and, as has been seen, I was not disappointed.

Now, however, that supper was over and the crab had been all consumed, I found myself pledged to discover by the morrow a full supply of that succulent food. I did not let the matter distress me, as I anticipated a delightful walk by the shore to Bridport, a walk which I had not yet undertaken. In the morning I awoke early, just a little after daybreak, and, leaving my wife asleep, started on my walk.

The atmosphere of the early dawn was delightful and refreshing, and the sight of the moving sea filled me with a great pleasure, not withstanding the fact that an ominous shower on the water and a cold wind foretold a coming storm.

At this part of the Dorset coast the sea makes perpetual inroads on the land. As all the country is undulating, the shore presents from the sea an endless succession of steep cliffs, some of which rise by comparison to a scale of moderate grandeur.

The cliffs are either of blue clay or sandstone, which soft or friable material perpetually gives way under the undermining influence of the tides assisted by the exfiltration of the springs, causing an endless series of moraines. The beach is either of fine gravel or of shingle, save at places where banks of half-formed rock full of fossils run into the sea.

The shingle, which forms the major portion of the road, makes walking at times trying work.

I passed by the target for a rifle practice, and the spot reserved tacitly as the bathing place for gentlemen, and so on under the first headland, the summit of whose bare yellow cliff is fringed with dark pine trees bent eastwards by the prevailing westerly breeze.

Here the shingle began to get heavier. It had been driven by successive tides and storms into a mass like a snow drift, and it was necessary to walk along the top of the ridge whence the pebbles rolled down every step.

The wind had now begun to rise, and as I went onward the waves increased in force till the whole shore was strewn with foam swept from the crests of the waves. Sometimes great beds of seaweed—a rare commodity on the Dorset coast—rose and fell as the waves rolled in and broke.

On I went as sturdily as I could. The blue black earth of the Charmouth cliffs had now given place to sandstone, and great boulders shaped like mammoth bones—as indeed they probably were, cumbered the foreshore. I stopped to examine some of these, ostensibly from scientific interest, but in reality to rest myself. I was now getting a little tired, and more than a little hungry, for when starting I had determined to eat my breakfast at Bridport, and to test the culinary capabilities of the place.

As I sat on the stones looking seaward I noticed something washing in and out among the boulders. On examination it proved to be a hat—a human hat. I hooked it in with a piece of driftwood. I turned it over, and in turning it saw something white stuck within the leather lining. Gingerly enough I made an examination, and found the white mass to be some papers, on the outside of one of which was the name “J. Hoggen.”

“Hullo!” said I to myself. “Here is some news of old Hoggen at last.” I took the papers out, carefully squeezed the wet out of them, as well as I could between flat stones, and put them in the pocket of my shooting jacket. I placed the hat on a boulder and looked round to see if I could find any further signs of the missing man. All the while the breeze was freshening and the waves came rolling in in increasing volume.

Again I saw, some twenty yards out, something black floating, bobbing up and down with each wave. After a while I made it out to be the body of a man. By this time my excitement had grown to intensity, and I could hardly await the incoming of the body borne by the waves.

On and on it came, advancing a little with each wave, till at last it got so close that reaching out I hooked part of the clothing with my piece of timber, and pulled the mass close to the shore.

Then I took hold of the collar of the coat and pulled. The cloth, rotten with the sea water, tore away, and left the piece in my hand.

With much effort—for I had to be very careful—I brought the body up on the beach, and began to make an accurate examination of it.

While doing so I found in the pocket a tape measure, and it occurred to me that I must fulfill all the requirements of the local police, and so began to take dimensions of the corpse.

I measured the height, the length of the limbs, of the hands and feet. I took the girth of the shoulders and the waist, and, in fact, noted in my pocketbook a sufficiency of detail to justify a tailor in commencing sartorial operations on a full scale. Some of the dimensions struck me at the time as rather strange, but having verified the measurements I noted them down.

On examination of the cloths and pockets I found the massive gold watch hanging on the chain and the big diamond ring, to whose power of inspiring greed local opinion had attributed the murder. These I put in my pocket together with the purse, studs, papers and money of the dead man. In making the examination the coat became torn, revealing a mass of bank notes between cloth and lining: in fact, the whole garment was quilted with them. There was also a small note case containing the necessary papers for a voyage to Queensland by a ship leaving Southampton the previous week.

These discoveries I thought so valuable that I felt it my duty to try to bring the body to the nearest place of authority, which I considered would probably be Chidiock, a village on the Bridport road which I had seen upon the map.

It was now blowing a whole gale, and the waves broke on the beach in thunder, dragging down the shingle in their ebb with a loud screaming. The rain fell in torrents, and the increasing of the storm decided me in my intention to carry the body with me.

I lifted it across my shoulder with some difficulty, for at each effort the cloths, already torn in the extrication of paper money, fell to pieces. However, at last I got it on my shoulder, face downwards, and started. I had hardly taken a step when, with an impulse which I could not restrain, I let it slip—or, rather, threw it—to the ground.

It had seemed to me to be alive. I certainly felt a movement. As it lay all in a heap on the beach, with the drenching rain sweeping the pale face, I grew ashamed of my impulse, and, with another, effort, took it up and started again.

Again there was the same impulse, with the same cause—the body seemed alive. This time, however, I was prepared, and held on, and after a while the idea wore away.

Presently I came to a place where a mass of great boulders strewed the shore. The stepping from one to another shook me and my burden, and as I jumped from the last of the rocks to the smooth sand which lay beyond I felt a sudden diminution of weight. As my load overbalanced, I fell on the sand higgledy piggledy with my burden.

Old Hoggen had parted in the middle.

As may be imagined, I was not long getting up. On a survey of the wreck I saw, to my intense astonishment, some large crabs walking out of the body. This, then, explained the strange movement of the corpse. It occurred to me that the presence of these fishes was incontrovertible proof that crabs did exist between Bridport and Lyme Regis, and not without a thought of Cousin Jemima and my mother-in-law, I lifted two or three and put them in the big pocket of my shooting coat.

Then I began to consider whether I should leave the departed Hoggen where he was or bring him on.

For a while I weighed the arguments pro and con, and finally concluded to bring him on with me, or it, or them, or whatever the fragments could be called. It was not an alluring task, in any respect, and it was by a great effort that I undertook the duty.

I gathered the fragments together, and a strange looking heap they made—waxen limbs protruding from a wet heap of dishevelled rags. Then I began to lift them. It had been a task of comparative ease carrying the body over my shoulder, but now I had to pick up separate pieces and carry them together in my hands and under my arms. Often I had laughed, as I went through Victoria street, to see people of both sexes, worthy, but deficient of organizing power and system, coming forth from the co-operative stores bearing hosts of packages purchased without system in the various departments. Such an one I now felt myself to be. Do what I would, I could not hold, all at one time, the various segments of my companion. Just as I had carefully tucked the moieties of old Hoggen under my arms, I spied some of his clothing on the shore, and in trying to raise these also lost a portion of my load. What added to the aggravation of the situation was that the wear and tear began to tell upon the person of the defunct. Thus while I was lifting the upper section, an arm came away, and from the lower a foot.

However, with a supreme effort I bundled the pieces together, and, lifting the mass in my arms, proceeded on my way. But now the storm was raging in full force, and I saw that I must hurry or the advancing waves, every moment rushing closer to the cliffs, would cut me off. I could see, through the blinding rain, a headland before me, and knew that if I could once pass it I would be in comparative safety.

So I hurried on as fast as I could, sometimes losing a portion of my burden, but never being able to wait to pick it up. Had my thoughts and ejaculations been recorded they would have been somewhat as follows:

“There goes a hand; it was lucky I took off the ring.”

“Half the coat; well that I found the bank notes.”

“There goes the waistcoat; a fortunate thing I have the watch.”

“A leg off—my! will I ever get him home?”

“Another leg.”

“An arm gone.”

“His grave will be a mile long.”

“We must consecrate the shore that he may lay in hallowed ground.”

“The lower trunk gone, too. Poor fellow; no one can hit him now below the belt.”

“An arm gone, too; he would not be able to defend himself if they did.”
“Murder! but he’s going fast.”

“The cloths all gone, too—I had better have left him where he was.”

“Ugh! there goes the trunk; nothing left now but the head.”

“Ugh! that was a close shave anyhow. Never mind, I will keep you safe.”

I clung tight to the head, which was now my sole possession of the corpse.

It was mighty hard to hold it, for it was as slippery as glass, and the tight holding of it cramped my efforts and limited me as I leaped from rock to rock or dashed through the waves, which now touched in their onward rush to the base of the cliff.

At least, through the blinding rain, I saw the headland open, and with a great rush through the recoil of a big wave I rounded it and rested for a moment to breathe on the wide shore beyond.

Then I tried for a while to collect my scattered faculties, such being the only part of the goods scattered in the last half-hour which could be collected.

I felt ruefully that my effort to bring to the rites of burial the body of old Hoggen had been a mistaken one. All had gone save the head which lay on the sand, and whose eyes actually seemed to wink at me as the flakes of the spume settled over the eyes, dissolving as the bubbles burst. The property was, I felt, safe enough. I put my hand into the pocket of my shooting coat but in an instant drew it out again with a scream of pain, for it had been severely nipped. I had forgotten the crabs.

Very carefully I took out one of these fish and held him legs upward, he making frantic efforts to seize me with his claws. He seemed a greedy one, indeed, for he was trying to eat the diamond ring which he had got half within that mysterious mouth which is covered with a flap like that over the lock of a portmanteau. Hence also prejected part of the watch chain. I found that the brute had actually swallowed the watch, and it was with some difficulty that I relieved from his keeping both it and the ring. I took care to place the valuable property in the other pocket where the crabs were not.

Then I took up my head—or, rather old Hoggen’s—and started on my way, carrying the final relic under my arm.

The storm began to decrease, and died away as quickly as it had arisen, so that, before I had traversed half the long stretch of sand that lay before me, instead of storm there was marked calm, and for blinding rain an almost insupportable heat.

I struggled on over the sand, and at length saw an opening in the cliff—which, on coming close, I found to be caused by a small stream which had worn a deep cleft in the blue-black earthy rock, and, falling and tumbling from above, became lost in the beach.

There was a look about the sand here that seemed to me to be somewhat peculiar. Its surface was smooth and shining, with a sort of odd dimple here and there. It looked so flat and inviting after my scramble over the rock and shingle and plodding through the deep sand, that with joy I hurried toward it—and at once began to sink.

By the odd shiver that traversed it I knew that I was being engulfed in quicksand.

It was a terrible position.

I had already sunk over my knees and knew that unless aid came I was utterly lost. I would at that moment have welcomed even Cousin Jemima.

It is the misfortune of such people as her that they never do make an appearance at a favorable time—such as this.

But there was no help—on one side lay the sea with never a sail in sight, and the waves still angry from the recent storm tumbling in sullenly upon the shore—on the other side was a wilderness of dark cliff; and along the shore on either way an endless waste of sand.

I tried to shout, but the misery and terror of the situation so overcame me that my voice clung to my jaws, and I could make no sound. I still kept old Hoggen’s head under my arm. In moments of such danger the mind is quick to grasp an offered chance, and it suddenly occurred to me that, if I could get a foothold even for a moment, I might still manage to extricate myself. I was at yet but on the edge of the quicksand, and but a little help would suffice. With the thought came also the means—old Hoggen’s head.

No sooner thought than done.

I laid the head on the sand before me, and pressing on it with my hands, felt that I was relieving my feet of part of their weight. With an effort I lifted one leg and placed the foot on the head now imbedded some inches in the treacherous sand. Then pressing all my weight on this foot made a great effort, and tearing up the imbedded foot leaped to the firm sand, where I slipped and fell and for a few minutes panted with exhaustion.

I was saved, but old Hoggen’s head was gone forever.

Then I went toward the cliff, cautiously feeling my way, testing every spot on which my foot must rest, before trusting my weight to it. I gained the cliff, and resting on its firm base passed behind the fatal quicksand and went on my course to the stable strand beyond.

On I plodded till at last I came near a few houses built in a green cleft, whence through the cliffs a tiny stream, on whose banks stood the pretty village of Chidiock, fell into the sea.

There was a coastguard station here, with a little rope-railed plot, where before the row of trim houses the flagstaff rose.

As I drew near a coastguard and a policeman rushed toward me from behind a shed and grasped me on either side, holding me tight with a vigor which I felt to be quite disproportionate to the necessity of the occasion.

With the instinct of conscious innocence I struggled with them.

“Let me go!” I cried. “Let me go—what do you mean? Let me go I say!”

“Come now—none of this,” said the policeman. I still struggled. “Better keep quiet,” said the coastguard! “It’s no use struggling.”

“I will not keep quiet,” I cried, struggling more frantically than ever.

The policeman looked at me right savagely and gave my neckcloth a twist which nearly strangled me. “Tell you what,” he said sternly, “if you struggle any more, I’ll whale you over the head with my baton.”

 

John Edgar Browning and Bram Stoker, The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker, published 2012, reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan

1 comment
Solmaz Veger
1. seo24
Great excerpt! The story make me more curious and interesting while reading. As if I'm a child eager to find the answer in all question I have in mind regarding the story.

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