Having ascertained that we need to spread out the Edgar stretch, we come to “Oolanga’s Hallucinations” a chapter which entails Arabella conniving to get in to see Edgar—which we can work with—and Oolanga skulking about to try to blackmail her into “lub”.
The course of true lub nebber ran smoove.Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat, doing Shakespeare
All the machinations literally amount to nothing except this blackmail attempt. It’s wonderfully racist, if racism can be wonderful, to say nothing of classist—not just our witch doctor’s race but our lady’s station are the main factors in this grotesquerie.
Oolanga is gone in five chapters, too. And his sole purpose—besides highlighting Edgar and Arabella’s apparently fully justified racism—is to convince Adam that Arabella’s not all well. Not cricket. Not exactly a good guy…er, gal…er, snake.
A bigger problem for us, even if we planned to market this book to racists, which I’m repeatedly assured are a huge market, is that it’s all really boring. The six chapters after the Edgar Stretch are a lot of milling around.
We get “Oolanga’s Hallucinations”, in which he is spurned. “Battle Renewed” which is “Hawk & Dove” and “The First Encounter” done either a third or second time depending on whether those two chapters describe the same or different events.
“Battle Renewed” has the kite break at least—but then it’s instantly repaired! And Watford comes in again with the bird report!
Chapter XVII, “The Shutting of the Door” sums up to Edgar hates everyone and goes back to the one thing he knows loves him—his kite, and Adam gets more mongooses. Caswall also kills his old servant by asking him to talk about the box, which he’s already opened in the Edgar Stretch.
The Aeolian harp emerges. The girls are setting one up in “Battle Renewed”, and the string of the kite resembles the Aeolian harp in sound. (I urge you to go listen to some aeolian harps to understand the questionability of setting one up near the place you sleep and read and eat.) There’s something to this, but I’m not sure what. It’s one of those ideas that could be spooky and cool but never quite goes anywhere. It doesn’t super-evoke snake charming to me, but I don’t know enough about either aeolian harps or snake charming to say.
Chapter XVIII is just unfortunate. (The picture of Oolanga carrying along dead snakes should be back in Chapter VIII, “Oolanga” but is miscaptioned “Oolanga’s black face…peering out from a clump of evergreens”.) The first half describes Adam being followed by Arabella being followed by Oolanga. The second half, which seems to take place hours later, has Caswall watching all this unfold. The description of Caswall being upset over the death of his servant is muddled, as well: Stoker wants to make it clear that Adam doesn’t actually care (any more than Arabella, who is using this death as a pretext to approach Caswall) but the occsaional word choice inclines the reader to think maybe he does care a little.
The idea is that Caswall is upset because old Simon was his only link to his past. But later on we get:
That night Edgar Caswall had slept badly. The tragic occurrence of the day was on his mind, and he kept waking and thinking of it.
The only way this makes sense is if the “tragic occurrence” is this lost link to his past, but it’s really hard (at least for me) to parse it that way. If someone annoys you by dying…it seems like you’d use different words.
Chapter XIX continues the unfortunateness. Arabella tries to worm (hah!) her way into Edgar’s heart but is put off by the fact that he really DGAF. Which is funny because she DGAF either. She’s trying to be normal and warm, and he’s trying to be an English gentleman. And the racism comes out with Caswall suggesting that if Oolanga gives her the slightest bit of trouble, to just shoot him. Our first occurrence of the N-word.
Which, I think, lends credence to my idea that Stoker was rather against the random murder of American blacks he was doubtless reading about in the papers. But doesn’t help us here.
Neither does it help us that—hell, I think this is the FIRST actual dialogue exchanged by Arabella and Caswall, directly. We can assume a lot of things, but all of a sudden, she’s the demure normal one frightened by Caswall’s callous attitude toward a negro she has recently threatened to murder herself. But still she counts the whole visit as a “win”.
I’m gonna run with this notion of “duality” because, holy cats, what the hell else can I do?
Meanwhile, the walk Adam started in Chapter XVIII gets continued, sorta, basically ending with him back at Lesser Hill where he and Nathaniel talk about the mystery of Diana’s Grove which we now find out was purchased by the Marches within Nathaniel’s lifetime and after his tenure as the President of the Mercian Arcaheological Society—and since we also know that Arabella was a little girl there, the Marches had to have come around in the past 30 years. In fact, this passage tells us Sir Nathaniel was looking over the house to see if it were sound enough to “bring the bride to”.
So, Nathan has seen the worm hole, although I guess locked and covered up. Maybe it’s just the room that’s locked, since he says he also almost fell into the hole. And he wanted to spelunk but it was no dice, I guess, from Old Man March. Now he’s saying, “Yeah, that’s how the worm (or whatever) gets out.”
At this point, we’ve had zero incidents of worm.
This cannot stand. We cannot be speculating on the Worm without there at least being an appearance by said Lumbricidae.
Chapter XX takes us back to the walk entered upon in Chapter XVIII tp describe Adam being tailed by Oolanga. Adam circles back to catch Oolanga snooping on Arabella, but the Dastardly Oolanga doesn’t know he’s there so the Good Adam can snoop on him in peace. (The sun is deep in the east suggesting a very early walk, which re-raises the irritation of Caswall watching the town for hours after drawn before seeing these three knuckleheads skulking around.) Also, now her eyes are green-tinted. I guess we gave up on the hippie glasses back after Chapter IV.
For some reason, she makes a date to see Oolanga at 7PM, and this chapter has Adam going back to spy on this meeting, wherein, in short order: Oolanga professes his lub, which is proposes to demonstrate by giving her the contents of the box he stole from Adam, which neither knows contains a mongoose. She responds by bringing out all the racial contempt she can muster, and by being afraid of him but claiming not be afraid of him, and giving Oolanga her gun.
If he wants to kill her, she assures him he’ll hang, because it’s not Germany or Ghana. Which.
Oh, then Arabella, apparently completely aware of Adam all along, invites him to the next chapter, “Exit Oolanga”.