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Chapter 26

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, explains Chapter 26 in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Dracula | Chapter 26 : Dr. Seward's Diary | Summary

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Summary

Seward writes while on the train to Galatz, early on October 29th. They know through Mina's trance that Dracula's box is near land but that he has not yet disembarked. Under hypnosis, Mina hears sounds—rushing water, howling wolves—that frighten her but reveal little. By the time the train arrives in Galatz early on the 30th, Van Helsing can no longer hypnotize Mina easily.

Mina writes her October 30th entry from the hotel in Galatz, where Morris guards her while the others investigate Dracula's whereabouts, with little success. Harker also writes on this day. Holmwood has used his aristocratic influence to arrange an interview with Donelson, the Scottish captain of the Czarina Catherine, who reports a suspiciously quick and easy journey, without any deaths. The wind was behind them the whole way, as if the Devil, Donelson says, were hurrying them along for his own reasons. However, fog always surrounded the ship so that they could never put into port. And at one point, the Romanians on board begged Donelson to throw a certain wooden box away. Idle superstition, the captain says, yet he also feels uneasy about the box. The closer the ship came to Galatz, dthe more frantically the Romanians wanted to dump the box in the sea. Donelson had to fight them off after they lugged the box on deck, where it was claimed by a man with the proper paperwork.

The men visit the office of Immanuel Hildesheim, who received the box, and bribe him for information. He fetched the box before sunrise as directed and delivered it to Petrof Skinsky. When the men try to find Skinsky, the unpopular man has disappeared. But a man rushes in to report that Skinsky's body has been found in a churchyard. The men avoid the scene and rush back to the hotel; clearly, Dracula is on land again.

The discouraged men rest while Mina updates their records. Jonathan looks near collapse, and Mina feels helpless. As she reviews the transcripts, Mina has an epiphany. She calls a meeting and outlines her conclusions in a memorandum: Dracula will be carried in his box to his castle. To go by road risks detection at inspection points and is too easy a path for his enemies to follow. To go by train, as cargo, risks delay, and he'd have no assistants to help him in the cargo area. To go by water limits his powers and movement, but it's the least risky route. Mina concludes that Skinsky put the box on a boat, where the same Szgany Dracula employs while at home are tending it. Mina has also studied maps and deduced Dracula's route. Of the two rivers he could take, the Sereth makes a bend very near Castle Dracula. That must be his route.

Impressed, the men formally shake Mina's hand. They form teams: Holmwood and Harker will get a steamer and pursue Dracula's boat up the Sereth while Seward and Morris go by horseback along the riverbank, in case Dracula disembarks. Meanwhile, Van Helsing and Mina will travel overland to the castle to sterilize Dracula's lair before he reaches it, but Harker objects. Van Helsing explains that he must purify the castle because Dracula could reassert his hold on Mina any time.

Harker adds to his journal on the night of the 30th, when he and Holmwood begin their chase on the Sereth. He needs to sleep, but his fears for Mina prevent it. Only his faith in God sustains him. In the morning, Holmwood sleeps while Harker steers and watches. Whenever they catch up to a boat to ask questions, the crewmen fall to their knees in terror and pray. By the evening of November 1st, Harker worries they've lost their prey. Oddly, the closer Harker and Holmwood draw to Castle Dracula, the sleepier Harker becomes. On November 2nd Holmwood lets Harker sleep late; he wakes feeling stronger and takes the watch as he wonders how the others are faring and frets over Mina.

Seward also writes on November 2nd. They've ridden fast, pausing only to rest the horses. By the 3rd the cold is intense; soon snow will fall, and they'll need sleds—another wrinkle in their plan. Seward hears news, on the 4th, that Holmwood and Harker's steamer had to be hauled up some rapids and is damaged, but he's sure Holmwood can fix it.

Meanwhile, as Mina writes on October 31st, she and Van Helsing have reached Veresti, where they hire horses and a carriage and pack food and warm clothes and blankets needed for the final 70 miles. Mina's trances reveal little actionable information.

Analysis

Many aspects of Mina pop up in this chapter. At one point she emerges from a deep hypnotic state. At another she angrily resents Van Helsing's hypnosis method, in which he commands her brusquely to speak even when she can't. In another scene, the Mina who proudly learned shorthand and typing expresses delight over a traveler's typewriter Morris bought for her—the latest technology. And in a burst of insight while studying maps, Mina makes a final, vital contribution to the hunt for Dracula: she deduces his escape route (but modestly gives the credit for her deduction to "God's providence"). Unlike Lucy, who though sweet and lovely was also passive and unaware of her transformation till the very end, Mina is feisty and informed. She fights Dracula's control, and she takes advantage of his overconfidence as he nears his castle to break free and act.

Once the teams are separated, the action moves quickly from Holmwood and Harker on the river, Seward and Morris on the bank, and Mina and Van Helsing over land toward Castle Dracula. Readers who think back to Harker's first journey to meet Dracula will notice similarities in the scenery and in the behavior of the locals, for example. On the river, the people Seward and Harker catch up to kneel and pray in fear, evidence that, like the Romanian sailors, they fear Dracula's return. But this second trip is different in an important way: the band of heroes, though split up, remains together in spirit. They pray for each other, think of each other, and write everything down to share when they're reunited. Mina and Jonathan in particular are oddly connected even in when they sleep. The idea of strength in numbers, tested over many chapters, holds now that Mina is fully integrated into the band of heroes, despite Dracula's attempt to cut her off from the men who love her.

And yet readers may notice that Stoker's control over the tone in this next-to-last chapter is less than consistent. For example, the urgency of the chase is interrupted by odd details such as Harker's description of a rented saddle. He can remove the saddle horn so that Mina can ride sidesaddle, as a proper lady must, if necessary. After dropping this mundane detail into his narrative, Harker continues, "It is a wild adventure we are on." Another such moment occurs when Seward writes about Holmwood's experience as an "amateur fitter," someone able to repair steam engines—an ability that seems out of keeping with Lord Godalming's rank and out of place in the race to destroy an evil vampire. Some readers might argue that these dry little details add realism to the story, but others argue that they act like brakes on a narrative speeding to the inevitable final confrontation.

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