Dracula: Chapter 26

Chapter 26

Summary: Van Helsing experiences greater difficulty hypnotizing Mina, because the group, making its way toward Galatz, is drawing nearer to Count Dracula all the time. They do, however, ascertain that “He is close to land: he has left his [final] earth-chest. But he has yet to get on shore.” Time is still, for now, on their side, although Seward fears that Mina’s ability to relay Dracula’s sensations “may die away, just when we want it most.”
In Galatz, in response to Arthur’s telegraphed request, agents from the London shipping firm that underwrote the Czarina Catherine’s voyage take Van Helsing, Seward, and Mina aboard the vessel. The ship’s captain relates his astonishment at how quickly his ship made the trip, “as though the Deil [i.e., the Devil] himself were blawin’ on yer sail for his ain [i.e., own] purpose.” He also relates how his Romanian crew expressed grave misgivings about the ship’s cargo, going so far as to ask the captain to heave the large box overboard. He did not, although he did come to regard it as the Devil’s “luggage.” The box was released, upon the Czarina Catherine’s arrival, to one Immanuel Hildesheim. Hildesheim tells the vampire hunters that he, in turn, gave the box to one Petrof Skinsky. The group soon learns that Skinsky has been found dead, “his throat torn open as if by some wild animal.” Mina concludes that Dracula decided to escape London by sea because it would be more secure than traveling by land; this decision, however, meant that someone else would have to bring Dracula to his destination. Once the box was on land, before sunrise or after sunset, Dracula emerged from it to murder Skinsky, thus, as he supposed, erasing the traces of his travels. Now, Dracula is in his box being propelled up the Sereth River, through the Borgo Pass, to his castle. Arthur and Harker will follow the vampire by steam launch; Morris and Seward, by horseback, in case Dracula should attempt landfall. Van Helsing and Mina will go to Castle Dracula to destroy its master: as the professor explains, “Madam Mina’s hypnotic power will surely help, and we shall find our way—all dark and unknown otherwise—after the first sunrise when we are near that fateful place.” Harker initially objects to Mina’s going into the very lair of the enemy, but Van Helsing reassures him. Mina is their key to ensuring that Dracula does not again escape them, and Van Helsing declares his willingness to die, if necessary, to accomplish that task.
Analysis: With this chapter, Stoker begins to bring his narrative to a relatively rapid conclusion. As Leonard Wolf points out, the author employs some plot devices that do not make much rational sense—most notably, Van Helsing’s decision to drive he and Mina himself to Castle Dracula—but that do move events forward more quickly (see p. 420 n36). At the same time, however, the chapter shows some signs of being intricately constructed: the final few pages consist of diary and journal entries from all three “teams”—Seward and Morris; Jonathan and Arthur; and Mina and Van Helsing—that overlap in date, thus highlighting again Stoker’s use of interlacing chronology, and underscoring the unity of all six characters in their quest to destroy Dracula. Each team, while engaged in its own task, is also thinking of the others: e.g., “I wonder how Dr. Seward and Mr. Morris are getting on” (p. 423). The narrative device nicely illustrates not only the increasing pace of events—“It is a wild adventure we are on,” p. 422—but also the mutual cooperation, as opposed to tyrannical domination, that Stoker could be suggesting characterizes true humanity.
Selfless devotion, too, returns as a hallmark of that true humanity. Mina certainly expends much mental and emotional effort to piece together Dracula’s itinerary from the evidence at hand, despite her weakened condition as one who is in grave danger of becoming a vampire herself—she nobly reflects, “They were so tired and worn out and dispirited that there was nothing to be done till they had some rest… Oh! If I could only help at all… I shall do what I can…” (p. 414). And Van Helsing declares, “My friend, is it not a dire need for the which I am giving, if need me, my life? If it were that any one went into that place to stay [i.e., Castle Dracula], it is I who have to go, to keep them company” (p. 420). The heroic Van Helsing’s words not only echo (again) Jesus’ words on self-sacrifice in John 14, but also the apostle Paul’s wish that he might be cut off from the blessings of Christ if, in so doing, he could win more of his fellow Israelite brethren to faith (see Romans 9:1-5). Readers may be forgiven for assuming that Stoker is engaging in foreshadowing at this point—but such proves not to be the case, as we will shortly see.
Readers should also note how the Czarina Catherine’s voyage mirrors that of the Demeter, although the former ship’s crew survives its passage whereas the latter’s, of course, did not. Like the crew of the Demeter, the crew of the Czarina Catherine experienced misgivings about their travels due to Dracula’s presence, misgivings they expressed through recourse to superstition. And the Czarina Catherine also experienced stormy weather, as did the Demeter: e.g., “a fog fell on us and traveled wi’ us” (p. 411)—a sure sign of the vampire’s influence. The parallel sea voyages are one element of the way in which Stoker is now retracing the earlier action of his plot, a mirroring which reaches full expression in the book’s next, final chapter.