Note-Written on that now famous evening Byron, Mary Shelly and Polidori sat down in a contest to write a horror story, this fragment later became the basis for the novel 'The Vampyre' by John William Polidori.
In the year 17--, having for some time determined on
a journey through countries not hitherto much frequented by travelers, I
set out, accompanied by a friend, whom I shall designate by the name of
Augustus Darvell. He was a few years my elder, and a man of considerable
fortune and ancient family, advantages which an extensive capacity
prevented him alike from undervaluing and overrating. Some peculiar
circumstances in his private history had rendered him to me an object of
attention, of interest, and even of regard, which neither the reserve of
his manners, nor occasional indication of an inquietude at times
approaching to alienation of mind, could extinguish.
I was yet young in life, which I had begun early;
but my intimacy with him was of a recent date: we had been educated at the
same schools and university; but his progress through these had preceded
mine, and he had been deeply initiated into what is called the world,
while I was yet in my novitiate. While thus engaged, I heard much both of
his past and present life; and, although in these accounts there were many
and irreconcilable contradictions, I could still gather from the whole
that he was a being of no common order, and one who, whatever pains he
might take to avoid remark, would still be remarkable.
I had cultivated
his acquaintance subsequently, and endeavoured to obtain his friendship,
but this last appeared to be unattainable: whatever affections he might
have possessed seemed now, some to have been extinguished, and others to
be concentered: that his feelings were acute, I had sufficient
opportunities of observing; for, although he could control, he could not
altogether disguise them; still he had a power of giving to one passion
the appearance of another, in such a manner that it was difficult to
define the nature of what was working within him; and the expressions of
his features would vary so rapidly, though slightly, that it was useless
to trace them to their sources. It was evident that he was a prey to some
cureless disquiet; but whether it arose from ambition, love, remorse,
grief, from one or all of these, or merely from a morbid temperament akin
to disease, I could not discover: there were circumstances alleged which
might have justified the application to each of these causes; but, as I
have before said, these were so contradictory and contradicted, that none
could be fixed upon with accuracy.
Where there is mystery, it is generally
supposed that there must also be evil: I know not how this may be, but in
him there certainly was the one, though I could not ascertain the extent
of the other -- and felt loth, as far as regarded himself, to believe in
its existence. My advances were received with sufficient coldness: but I
was young, and not easily discouraged, and at length succeeded in
obtaining, to a certain degree, that common-place intercourse and moderate
confidence of common and every-day concerns, created and cemented by
similarity of pursuit and frequency of meeting, which is called intimacy,
or friendship, according to the ideas of him who uses those words to
Darvell had already traveled extensively; and to
him I had applied for information with regard to the conduct of my
intended journey. It was my secret wish that he might be prevailed on to
accompany me; it was also a probable hope, founded upon the shadowy
restlessness which I observed in him, and to which the animation which he
appeared to feel on such subjects, and his apparent indifference to all by
which he was more immediately surrounded, gave fresh strength. This wish I
first hinted, and then expressed: his answer, though I had partly expected
it, gave me all the pleasure of surprise — he consented; and, after the
requisite arrangement, we commenced our voyages. After journeying through
various countries of the south of Europe, our attention was turned towards
the East, according to our original destination; and it was in my progress
through these regions that the incident occurred upon which will turn what
I may have to relate.
The constitution of Darvell, which must from his
appearance have been in early life more than usually robust, had been for
some time gradually giving away, without the intervention of any apparent
disease: he had neither cough nor hectic, yet he became daily more
enfeebled; his habits were temperate, and he neither declined nor
complained of fatigue; yet he was evidently wasting away: he became more
and more silent and sleepless, and at length so seriously altered, that my
alarm grew proportionate to what I conceived to be his danger.
We had determined, on our arrival at Smyrna, on an
excursion to the ruins of Ephesus and Sardis, from which city of the dead
appeared to be the sole refuge of my unfortunate friend, who seemed on the
verge of becoming the last of its inhabitants.
In this situation, I looked round for a place where
he might most conveniently repose: contrary to the usual aspect of
Mahometan burial-grounds, the cypresses were in this few in number, and
these thinly scattered over its extent; the tombstones were mostly fallen,
and worn with age: upon one of the most considerable of these, and beneath
one of the most spreading trees, Darvell supported himself, in a
half-reclining posture, with great difficulty. He asked for water. I had
some doubts of our being able to find any, and prepared to go in search of
it with hesitating despondency: but he desired me to remain; and turning
to Suleiman, our janizary, who stood by us smoking with great tranquility,
he said, "Suleiman, verbana su," (i.e. "bring some water") and went on
describing the spot where it was to be found with great minuteness, at a
small well for camels, a few hundred yards to the right: the janizary
I said to Darvell, "How did you know this?" He replied, "From our
situation; you must perceive that this place was once inhabited, and could
not have been so without springs: I have also been here before."
"You have been here before! How came you never to
mention this to me? and what could you be doing in a place where no one
would remain a moment longer than they could help it?"
To this question I received no answer. In the mean
time Suleiman returned with the water, leaving the serrugee and the horses
at the fountain. The quenching of his thirst had the appearance of
reviving him for a moment; and I conceived hopes of his being able to
proceed, or at least to return, and I urged the attempt. He was silent —
and appeared to be collecting his spirits for an effort to speak. He began
"This is the end of my journey, and of my life; I
came here to die; but I have a request to make, a command -- for such my
last words must be. -- You will observe it?"
" Most certainly; but I have better hopes."
" I have no hopes, nor wishes, but this -- conceal
my death from every human being."
"I hope there will be no occasion; that you will
recover, and -- "
"Peace! it must be so: promise this."
"Swear it, by all that —" He here dictated an
oath of great solemnity.
"There is no occasion for this. I will observe your
request; and to doubt me is -- "
" It cannot be helped, you must swear."
I took the oath, it appeared to relieve him. He
removed a seal ring from his finger, on which were some Arabic characters,
and presented it to me. He proceeded --
"On the ninth day of the month, at noon precisely (what
month you please, but this must be the day), you must fling this ring into
the salt springs which run into the Bay of Eleusis; the day after, at the
same hour, you must repair to the ruins of the temple of Ceres, and wait
"You will see."
"The ninth day of the month, you say?"
As I observed that the present was the ninth day of
the month, his countenance changed, and he paused. As he sat, evidently
becoming more feeble, a stork, with a snake in her beak, perched upon a
tombstone near us; and, without devouring her prey, appeared to be
steadfastly regarding us. I know not what impelled me to drive it away,
but the attempt was useless; she made a few circles in the air, and
returned exactly to the same spot. Darvell pointed to it, and smiled -- he
spoke -- I know not whether to himself or to me -- but the words were only,
"What is well? What do you mean?"
"No matter; you must bury me here this evening, and
exactly where that bird is now perched. You know the rest of my
He then proceeded to give me several directions as
to the manner in which his death might be best concealed. After these were
finished, he exclaimed, "You perceive that bird?"
"And the serpent writhing in her beak?"
"Doubtless: there is nothing uncommon in it; it is
her natural prey. But it is odd that she does not devour it."
He smiled in a ghastly manner, and said faintly. "It
is not yet time!" As he spoke, the stork flew away. My eyes followed it
for a moment -- it could hardly be longer than ten might be counted. I
felt Darvell's weight, as it were, increase upon my shoulder, and, turning
to look upon his face, perceived that he was dead!
I was shocked with the sudden certainty which could
not be mistaken -- his countenance in a few minutes became nearly black. I
should have attributed so rapid a change to poison, had I not been aware
that he had no opportunity of receiving it unperceived. The day was
declining, the body was rapidly altering, and nothing remained but to
fulfill his request. With the aid of Suleiman's ataghan and my own sabre,
we scooped a shallow grave upon the spot which Darvell had indicated: the
earth easily gave way, having already received some Mahometan tenant. We
dug as deeply as the time permitted us, and throwing the dry earth upon
all that remained of the singular being so lately departed, we cut a few
sods of greener turf from the less withered soil around us, and laid them
upon his sepulchre.
Between astonishment and grief, I was tearless.