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BRAM STOKER STORY
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The following is excerpted from the new book The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker. The writings in this book are published for the first time since their publication over a century ago. It includes 12 previously unknown published works, three pieces by Stoker that have never been reprinted, 12 rare writings about Stoker by his contemporaries, and the estate sale catalog of Stoker's personal library. The following is most of one of Stoker's lost stories, "A Baby Passenger" (1899). The story offers a lot of the themes dealt with elsewhere in the collection--humor, love, heroism, death, etc. Bram Stoker is best known for influencing the gothic traditions with Dracula, and this story exhibits some of the themes typically covered within the genre.:

One night we were journeying in the west of the Rockies over a road bed which threatened to jerk out our teeth with every loosely-laid sleeper on the line.

Traveling in that part of the world, certainly in the days I speak of, was pretty hard. The travelers were mostly men, all overworked, all overanxious, and intolerant of anything which hindered their work or interfered with the measure of their repose. In night journeys the berths in the sleeping cars were made up early, and as all the night trains were sleeping cars, the only thing to be done was to turn in at once and try and sleep away the time. As most of the men were usually tired out with the day’s work, the arrangement suited everybody. You can understand that on such journeys women and children were disturbing elements. Fortunately they were, as night travelers, rare, and the women, with that consideration for the needs of their men folk which I have always noticed in American female workers, used to devote themselves to keeping little ones quiet.

The weather was harsh, and sneezing and coughing was the order of the day.This made the people in the sleeper, all men, irritable: all the more that as most of them were contributing to the general chorus of sounds coming muffled through quilts and curtains, it was impossible to single out any special offender for general execration. After awhile, however, the change of posture from standing or sitting to lying down began to have some kind of soothing effect, and new sounds of occasional snoring began to vary the monotony of irritation. Presently the train stopped at a way station: then ensued a prolonged spell of shunting backward and forward with the uncertainty of jerkiness which is so peculiarly disturbing to imperfect sleep; and then two newcomers entered the sleeper, a man and a baby. The baby was young, quite young enough to be defiantly ignorant and intolerant of all rules and regulations regarding the common good. It played for its own hand alone, and as it was extremely angry and gifted with exceptionally powerful lungs, the fact of its presence and its emotional condition, even though the latter afforded a mystery as to its cause, were immediately apparent. The snoring ceased, and its place was taken by muttered grunts and growls; the coughing seemed to increase with the renewed irritation, and everywhere was the rustling of ill-at-ease and impotent humanity. Curtains were pulled angrily aside, the rings shrieking viciously on the brass rods and gleaming eyes and hardening mouths glared savagely at the intruder on our quiet, for so we now had tardily come to consider by comparison him and it. The newcomer did not seem to take the least notice of anything, and went on in a stolid way trying to quiet the child, shifting it from one arm to the other, dandling it up and down, and rocking it sideways.

All babies are malignant; the natural wickedness of man, as elaborated at the primeval curse, seems to find an unadulterated effect in their expressions of feeling.

The baby was a peculiarly fine specimen of its class. It seemed to have no compunction whatever, no parental respect, no natural affection, no mitigation in the natural virulence of its rancor. It screamed, it roared, it squalled, it bellowed. The root ideas of profanity, of obscenity, of blasphemy were mingled in its tone. It beat with clenched fist its father’s face, it clawed at his eyes with twitching fingers, it used its head as an engine with which to buffet him. It kicked, it struggled, it wriggled, it writhed, it twisted itself into serpentine convolutions, till every now and then, what with its vocal and muscular exertions, it threatened to get black in the face. All the time the stolid father simply tried to keep it quiet with eternal changes of posture and with whispered words, “There, now, pet!” “Hush; lie still, little one.” “Rest, dear one, rest!” He was a big, lanky, patient-looking, angular man with great rough hands and enormous feet, which he shifted about as he spoke; so that man and child together seemed eternally restless.

The thing appeared to have a sort of fascination for most of the men in the car. The curtains of a lot of berths were opened, and a lot of heads appeared, all scowling. I chuckled softly to myself, and tried to conceal my merriment, lest I should spoil the fun. No one said anything for a long time, till at last one wild-eyed, swarthy, long-bearded individual, who somehow looked like a Mormon Elder, said:

“Say, master, what kind of howling piece is it you’ve got there? Have none of you boys got a gun?”

There came from the bunks a regular chorus of acquiescence: “The durned thing had ought to be killed!”

“Beats prairie dogs in full moon!”

“When I woke up with it howlin’ thought I had got ‘em again.”

“Never mind, boys, it may be a blessin’ in disguise. Somethin’ bad is comin’ to us on this trip, an’ arter this ‘twill be easy work to die!”

The man spoke up:

“I’m sorry, gentlemen, if she incommodes you!” The words were so manifestly inadequate that there was a roar of laughter which seemed to shake the car. West of the Mississippi things are, or at any rate they used to be, a bit rough, and ideas followed suit. Laughter, when it came, was rough and coarse; and on this occasion even the lanky man seemed to feel it. He only tried to hold the child closer to him, as if to shield it from the hail of ironical chaff which followed.

“Incommode us! Oh, not at all. It’s the most soothing concourse of sweet sounds I ever heard.”

“Bully for baby syrups!”

“Pray, don’t let us disturb the concert with our sleeping.”

“Jerk us out a little more chin-music!”

“There is no place like home with a baby in it.”

“Just opposite where the man moved restlessly with the child was the bunk of a young giant whom I had noticed turning in earlier in the evening. He had not seemed to have noticed the disturbance, but now his curtains were thrust aside fiercely and he appeared lifted on one elbow as he asked in an angry tone:

“Say you, where’s its mother, anyhow?” The man replied in a low, weary tone, without looking round:

“She’s in the baggage car, sir—in her coffin!”

This excerpt was reproduced from John Edgar Browning and Bram Stoker's The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker, published in 2012, with permission from Palgrave Macmillan.

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