You will probably think I am pulling your legs, but I am asking you in all seriousness to let me know whether you have had any experience of vampires. Personally, I believe they do exist.
I met two people once in Winchester, and was convinced that they were vampires. I remembered having been told in the Balkans, where everybody believes in vampires, that garlic is a very potent antidote.
So I procured a clove of garlic from the waiter at the Sporting Club, and the two vampires bothered me no more. Yet, I always wondered about the longevity of its potency——
But I digress; here is a story about a vampire which I have just had related to me by a close friend. I will tell it as though it happened to myself, for that will save time.
I knew a vampire at Crondall in Hampshire between the years 1902 and 1905. She was married and had four children. She was fantastically beautiful. By that I mean that there was something extraordinary, almost supernatural, about her beauty. To begin with, her face was as white as this sheet of paper before I began to write on it, so white as to be almost terrifying. And yet she was not in the least terrifying when you came to know her. On the contrary, she was fascinating. Her eyes, her hair, her mouth redeemed the excessive pallor of her skin. I do not know which was the most tempting – the fiery red hair which illuminated her skull, the huge pathetic devouring eyes, or her sunset-red lips.
Five years previously she suddenly died. Do not start out of your skins. She really did die. Two doctors certified her death. Three days later her body began to decompose. On the fourth day Mary Fanshawe rose from the dead. She simply rose from her deathbed and put on her clothes and went about as usual. Not quite as usual, for her memory was in a great state of disorder. She talked incoherently and had lost all affection for her relations. She seemed to have a dual personality. In respect of events subsequent to her death, she spoke in the first person; previous events, however, were attributed to a vague and utterly different personality. After a time she seemed to acquire affection for her relations, but the affection was almost uncanny.
It had a very remarkable effect upon them. Her father was affected least of all. Her mother and her elder sister Harriet became languid. Her younger sister Juliet seemed to have gone into a decline, while her little brother Jack became incapable of continuing his lessons at school; he slept at least nineteen hours out of the twenty-four. The family doctor expressed surprise, but could suggest no remedy.
In the spring they were rather better, and their improvement coincided with the appearance of a young man named James Hannington, who had fallen in love with Mary. She married him in the summer, and the family recovered its normal health very soon after her departure. In due course, the couple had four children.
But, over the course of her childbearing years, James had become pale and sickly, though he had previously had the appearance of an athlete. The doctor packed him off to complete a rest cure in a nursing home, and Mary went to stay with her family. They all fell ill again, while Hannington regained all his old strength and energy. When he came out, and was rejoined by his wife, the family recovered again but soon he grew pale and sickly. This aroused his suspicions, and he began to watch his wife.
One night he pretended to go to sleep but really remained on the alert. At about one in the morning she woke up and bent over him. He felt her fixing her warm lips upon his neck. It was a strange sensation, voluptuous and disquieting. Her lips breathed in something with infinite gentleness, and he felt his strength departing from him. So he pulled himself together, leaped out of bed and exclaimed, “Wretched woman!”
The only answer was a sob, and when he turned on the lights he saw Mary hiding her face in the pillow and trembling in every limb. She answered dreamily, “I can’t help it. I should die.”
Then suddenly an inspiration enlightened Hannington. He knew as absolute fact that Mary was a vampire.
At first he was filled with fear and horror. Then he was touched by her tears, blinded by the beauty of her blazing hair. After all, she was very different from the vampires of tradition, for her heart and character were the kindest and purest in the world.
He tried to cross-question her about the events of her apparent death five years ago. But her recollections were very vague.
“I found memories in Mary’s body,” she said, “but all I know is that they do not belong to me. I have other old memories, but no words to express them. They are memories of another world.”
“Tell me,” he pleaded anxiously, “how did you live after your death until you met me?”
“I lived upon them,” she sobbed, “and again while you were away.”
“Then if I had not come your way,” he said, “you would have killed those poor children”
“Oh, no,” she protested vehemently, “when one was too much exhausted, I turned to another. I am not wicked. I am very unhappy. I know I have done wrong, but I know also that I should die, and the temptation is too strong.”
“But what did you take from us?”
“That is impossible.” he returned, after going to the looking-glass and examining the place on his neck where Mary had put her lips. He could only see a pink streak, very faintly pink.
Ideas were whirling through his brain like dead leaves in a storm.
“Oh! I love you so much,” she said with passionate simplicity. She struck him as so pure, so tender, so human, and her beauty was so intoxicating that he flung his arms round her and his lips sought hers. There was something delirious about the embrace. He forgot all else in the immensity of his love. Then his brain and body were overcome by that weakness which he knew only too well. He felt he was going to faint. He only dragged himself away just in time.
He realised that she had not bitten him; but he saw something damp and red upon her lips.
Next day he surveyed her with anxiety, for she was paler than ever, her eyes seemed to be sinking into her head, and her cheeks were hollow. As she grew weaker, he determined to consult a famous physician, whose speciality was nervous disease.
The doctor listened politely, but obviously thought him mad. However, he consented to examine Mary. He was interested at once, almost jovial over the prospect of a strange case. He insisted on witnessing a vampire-kiss. Mary refused at first, but was at length persuaded.
“Not a prick in the skin!” he exclaimed, “and blood has passed! This contradicts every experience.”
He went away promising relays of medical students to gratify the Vampire’s need of blood. James and Mary felt relieved and hopeful, but presently she sank back upon her cushions and seemed to faint.
James tried to kiss her, but she drew back and murmured: “Never again.”
Her heart had almost ceased to beat, her pulse was unrecognisable, no breath issued from her lips.
He sent for the doctor in a panic. She revived for a few minutes, and my readers may imagine her body was possessed once more by the original spirit. Not a bit of it. And when the physician and the husband looked at her, they realised that she was far less pale in death than she had been in her lifetime —— at least, during the period in which her body had been possessed by a vampire.