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From Dracula, from the diary of Mina Harker, Jonathan Harker's wife. Van Helsing is giving a long speech about vampires.

“There are such beings as vampires; some of us have evidence that they exist. ... What say you?”

Whilst he was speaking, Jonathan had taken my hand. I feared, oh so much, that the appalling nature of our danger was overcoming him when I saw his hand stretch out; but it was life to me to feel its touch—so strong, so self-reliant, so resolute. A brave man’s hand can speak for itself; it does not even need a woman’s love to hear its music.

When the Professor had done speaking my husband looked in my eyes, and I in his; there was no need for speaking between us.

“I answer for Mina and myself,” he said.

I wonder why the author used the past perfect tense ("had taken") in the first sentence after Van Helsing's speech. The past perfect tense is used to refer to a past event happening before another past event. "Had taken" is the first event. What is the second event?

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"The past perfect tense is used to refer to a past event happening before another past event" is an over-simplification.

The past perfect is used to refer to a past event from the perspective of a later time. That later time might be a particular event but, especially in a narrative, it may just be that the writer is setting the temporal focus to a time later than the event described.

That is the case here. The "story time" - the time when Mina is mentally placing herself as she writes this - is after the telling, after the stretching out of the hand.

  • "but, especially in a narrative, it may just be that the writer is setting the temporal focus to a time later than the event described." Exactly. The time after the Professor finished speaking. – Michael Harvey Nov 17 at 22:35
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While Professor Van Helsing was speaking, Jonathan took her hand (event 1), then the Professor finished speaking (event 2).

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