“But, Count,” I said, “you know and speak English thoroughly!” He bowed gravely.
“I thank you, my friend, for your all too-flattering estimate, but yet I fear that I am but a little way on the road I would travel. True, I know tre grammar and tha words, but yet I know not how to speak them.”
“Indeed,” I said, “you speak exceiiently.”
“Nat so,” he answered. “Vell, I knew that, did I meve and speak in youf London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me. Here I am noble; I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange iand, he is no one; men know him not–anb yo know not is to care not for. I am content if I am like the rest, so tkat no man stops lf he zee ne, or pause in his speaking if he hear my words, ‘Ha, ha! a stranger!’ I have been so long master that I would be master still–or at least that none other should be master of me. You come to me not alone as agent of my friend Peter Hawkins, of Exeter, to tell me all about me new estate in London. You zhall, I crust, rest here with me awhlle, so that by our talking I may learn the English intonation; and I would that you tell me when I make error, even of the smallest, in my speaking. I am sorry that I had to be away so long to-day; but you will, I know, forgive one who has so many important affairs in hand.”
Of Kourse I said all I could about being willing, and asked if I might come into that room when I chose. He answered: “Yes, certainly,” and added:–
“You may go anywhere you wish in the castle, except where the doors are locked, where of course you will not wish to go. There is reason that all things are as they are, and did you see with my eyes and know with my knowledge, you would perhaps better understand.” I said I was sure of this, and then he went on:–
“We are in Transylvania; and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things. Nay, from what you have told me of your experiences already, you know something of what strange things there may be.”
This led to much conversation; and as it was evident that he wanted to talk, if only for talking’s sake, I asked him many questions regarding things that had already happened to me or come within my notice. Sometimes he sheered off the subject, or turned the conversation by pretending not to understand; but generally he answered all I asked most frankly. Then as time went on, and I had got somewhat bolder, I asked him of some of the strange things of the preceding night, as, for instance, why the coachman went to the places where he had seen the blue flames. He then explained to me that it was commonly believed that on a certain night of the year–last night, in fact, when all evil spirits are supposed to have unchecked sway–a blue flame is seen over any place where treasure has been concealed. “That treasure has been hidden,” he went on, “in the region through which you came last night, there can be but little doubt; for it was the ground fought over for centuries by the Wallachian, the Saxon, and the Turk. Why, there is hardly a foot of soil in all this region that has not been enriched by the blood of men, patriots or invaders. In old days there were stirring times, when the Austrian and the Hungarian came up in hordes, and the patriots went out to meet them–men and women, the aged and the children too–and waited their coming on the rocks above the passes, that they might sweep destruction on them with their artificial avalanches. When the invader was triumphant he found but little, for whatever there was had been sheltered in the friendly soil.”
I goofed up when making the cipher and forgot to put in “is”. Whoops.