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In Dracula, there is this passage:

Tell your friend that when that time you suck from my wound so swiftly the poison of the gangrene from that knife that our other friend, too nervous, let slip, you did more for him when he wants my aids and you call for them than all his great fortune could do.

in which I am puzzled by "you did more for him when he wants my aids and you call for them than all his great fortune could do."

How comes present tense "when he wants" goes with past tense "you did more for him"? What does it mean as a whole?

Would any native speaker be so kind to explain?

  • Van Helsing, the speaker here, is supposed to be a native speaker of Dutch, not English; part of the fun of Stoker's characterization for the English-speaking reader is puzzling out just what he's trying to say. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 26 '13 at 14:55
  • This is true, some phrasings are a bit unusual compared to contemporary 21st Century English, but Van Helsing was rather roundabout even at the time. – Jon Hanna Nov 26 '13 at 15:21
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Let's split it from:

...you did more for him when he wants my aids and you call for them than all his great fortune could do.

To:

...you did more for him | when he wants my aids and you call for them | than all his great fortune could do.

Now, "when he wants my aids and you call for them" is simple enough, when he wants the speaker's assistance and "you" call for them.

... you did more for him [when help wanted] than all his great fortune could do.

He did him a favour in helping me, because when he wants my help, and you ask for it, that good turn you paid me will be more powerful in persuading me to help, than all of the wealth he has (and could perhaps offer).

  • One could add that in this special case it just means: With the act of calling Van Helsing for help (who is writing this), John Sewart did more for Jonathan Harker, than Jonathan himself could have done with all his money. Sewart has saved Van Helsings life before, Harker has not such a good argument to make the old man risk his life. But it's long ago I read this, so I might mix up the timeline. – skymningen Nov 26 '13 at 14:47
  • @skymninge not quite, it's the act of previously saving van Helsing's life that "did more for" Harker, should Seward come to ask Helsing to help Harker, as it is that act that makes Helsing feel obliged to Seward. – Jon Hanna Nov 26 '13 at 15:20
  • It was the count who was famous for his biting comments. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 26 '13 at 16:21

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