For a while sheer anger mastered me. It was as if he had during her lif_truck Lucy on the face. I smote the table hard and rose up as I said to him,
"Dr. Van Helsing, are you mad?"
He raised his head and looked at me, and somehow the tenderness of his fac_almed me at once. "Would I were!" he said. "Madness were easy to bea_ompared with truth like this. Oh, my friend, whey, think you, did I go so fa_ound, why take so long to tell so simple a thing? Was it because I hate yo_nd have hated you all my life? Was it because I wished to give you pain? Wa_t that I wanted, no so late, revenge for that time when you saved my life, and from a fearful death? Ah no!"
"Forgive me," said I.
He went on, "My friend, it was because I wished to be gentle in the breakin_o you, for I know you have loved that so sweet lady. But even yet I do no_xpect you to believe. It is so hard to accept at once any abstract truth, that we may doubt such to be possible when we have always believed the `no' o_t. It is more hard still to accept so sad a concrete truth, and of such a on_s Miss Lucy. Tonight I go to prove it. Dare you come with me?"
This staggered me. A man does not like to prove such a truth, Byron excepte_rom the catagory, jealousy.
"And prove the very truth he most abhorred."
He saw my hesitation, and spoke, "The logic is simple, no madman's logic thi_ime, jumping from tussock to tussock in a misty bog. If it not be true, the_roof will be relief. At worst it will not harm. If it be true! Ah, there i_he dread. Yet every dread should help my cause, for in it is some need o_elief. Come, I tell you what I propose. First, that we go off now and se_hat child in the hospital. Dr. Vincent, of the North Hospital, where th_apers say the child is, is a friend of mine, and I think of yours since yo_ere in class at Amsterdam. He will let two scientists see his case, if h_ill not let two friends. We shall tell him nothing, but only that we wish t_earn. And then … "
He took a key from his pocket and held it up. "And then we spend the night, you and I, in the churchyard where Lucy lies. This is the key that lock th_omb. I had it from the coffin man to give to Arthur."
My heart sank within me, for I felt that there was some fearful ordeal befor_s. I could do nothing, however, so I plucked up what heart I could and sai_hat we had better hasten, as the afternoon was passing.
We found the child awake. It had had a sleep and taken some food, an_ltogether was going on well. Dr, Vincent took the bandage from its throat, and showed us the punctures. There was no mistaking the similarity to thos_hich had been on Lucy's throat. They were smaller, and the edges looke_resher, that was all. We asked Vincent to what he attributed them, and h_eplied that it must have been a bite of some animal, perhaps a rat, but fo_is own part, he was inclined to think it was one of the bats which are s_umerous on the northern heights of London. "Out of so many harmless ones," h_aid, "there may be some wild specimen from the South of a more malignan_pecies. Some sailor may have brought one home, and it managed to escape, o_ven from the Zoological Gardens a young one may have got loose, or one b_red there from a vampire. These things do occur, you, know. Only ten days ag_ wolf got out, and was, I believe, traced up in this direction. For a wee_fter, the children were playing nothing but Red Riding Hood on the Heath an_n every alley in the place until this `bloofer lady' scare came along, sinc_hen it has been quite a gala time with them. Even this poor little mite, whe_e woke up today, asked the nurse if he might go away. When she asked him wh_e wanted to go, he said he wanted to play with the `bloofer lady'."
"I hope," said Van Helsing, "that when you are sending the child home you wil_aution its parents to keep strict watch over it. These fancies to stray ar_ost dangerous, and if the child were to remain out another night, it woul_robably be fatal. But in any case I suppose you will not let it away for som_ays?"
"Certainly not, not for a week at least, longer if the wound is not healed."
Our visit to the hospital took more time than we had reckoned on, and the su_ad dipped before we came out. When Van Helsing saw how dark it was, he said,
"There is not hurry. It is more late than I thought. Come, let us see_omewhere that we may eat, and then we shall go on our way."
We dined at `Jack Straw's Castle' along with a little crowd of bicyclists an_thers who were genially noisy. About ten o'clock we started from the inn. I_as then very dark, and the scattered lamps made the darkness greater when w_ere once outside their individual radius. The Professor had evidently note_he road we were to go, for he went on unhesitatingly, but, as for me, I wa_n quite a mixup as to locality. As we went further, we met fewer and fewe_eople, till at last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol o_orse police going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall o_he churchyard, which we climbed over. With some little difficulty, for it wa_ery dark, and the whole place seemed so strange to us, we found the Westenr_omb. The Professor took the key, opened the creaky door, and standing back, politely, but quite unconsciously, motioned me to precede him. There was _elicious irony in the offer, in the courtliness of giving preference on suc_ ghastly occasion. My companion followed me quickly, and cautiously drew th_oor to, after carefully ascertaining that the lock was a falling, and not _pring one. In the latter case we should have been in a bad plight. Then h_umbled in his bag, and taking out a matchbox and a piece of candle, proceede_o make a light. The tomb in the daytime, and when wreathed with fres_lowers, had looked grim and gruesome enough, but now, some days afterwards, when the flowers hung lank and dead, their whites turning to rust and thei_reens to browns, when the spider and the beetle had resumed their accustome_ominance, when the time-discolored stone, and dust-encrusted mortar, an_usty, dank iron, and tarnished brass, and clouded silver-plating gave bac_he feeble glimmer of a candle, the effect was more miserable and sordid tha_ould have been imagined. It conveyed irresistibly the idea that life, anima_ife, was not the only thing which could pass away.
Van Helsing went about his work systematically. Holding his candle so that h_ould read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped i_hite patches which congealed as they touched the metal, he made assurance o_ucy's coffin. Another search in his bag, and he took out a turnscrew.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"To open the coffin. You shall yet be convinced."
Straightway he began taking out the screws, and finally lifted off the lid, showing the casing of lead beneath. The sight was almost too much for me. I_eemed to be as much an affront to the dead as it would have been to hav_tripped off her clothing in her sleep whilst living. I actually took hold o_is hand to stop him.
He only said, "You shall see,"and again fumbling in his bag took out a tin_ret saw. Striking the turnscrew through the lead with a swift downward stab, which made me wince, he made a small hole, which was, however, big enough t_dmit the point of the saw. I had expected a rush of gas from the week-ol_orpse. We doctors, who have had to study our dangers, have to becom_ccustomed to such things, and I drew back towards the door. But the Professo_ever stopped for a moment. He sawed down a couple of feet along one side o_he lead coffin, and then across, and down the other side. Taking the edge o_he loose flange, he bent it back towards the foot of the coffin, and holdin_p the candle into the aperture, motioned to me to look.
I drew near and looked. The coffin was empty. It was certainly a surprise t_e, and gave me a considerable shock, but Van Helsing was unmoved. He was no_ore sure than ever of his ground, and so emboldened to proceed in hi_ask."Are you satisfied now, friend John?" he asked.
I felt all the dogged argumentativeness of my nature awake within me as _nswered him, "I am satisfied that Lucy's body is not in that coffin, but tha_nly proves one thing."
"And what is that, friend John?"
"That it is not there."
"That is good logic," he said, "so far as it goes. But how do you, how ca_ou, account for it not being there?"
"Perhaps a body-snatcher," I suggested. "Some of the undertaker's people ma_ave stolen it." I felt that I was speaking folly, and yet it was the onl_eal cause which I could suggest.
The Professor sighed. "Ah well!" he said," we must have more proof. Come wit_e."
He put on the coffin lid again, gathered up all his things and placed them i_he bag, blew out the light, and placed the candle also in the bag. We opene_he door, and went out. Behind us he closed the door and locked it. He hande_e the key, saying, "Will you keep it? You had better be assured."
I laughed, it was not a very cheerful laugh, I am bound to say, as I motione_im to keep it. "A key is nothing," I said, "thee are many duplicates, an_nyhow it is not difficult to pick a lock of this kind."
He said nothing, but put the key in his pocket. Then he told me to watch a_ne side of the churchyard whilst he would watch at the other.
I took up my place behind a yew tree, and I saw his dark figure move until th_ntervening headstones and trees hid it from my sight. It was a lonely vigil.
Just after I had taken my place I heard a distant clock strike twelve, and i_ime came one and two. I was chilled and unnerved, and angry with th_rofessor for taking me on such an errand and with myself for coming. I wa_oo cold and too sleepy to be keenly observant, and not sleepy enough t_etray my trust, so altogether I had a dreary, miserable time.
Suddenly, as I turned round, I thought I saw something like a white streak, moving between two dark yew trees at the side of the churchyard farthest fro_he tomb. At the same time a dark mass moved from the Professor's side of th_round, and hurriedly went towards it. Then I too moved, but I had to go roun_eadstones and railed-off tombs, and I stumbled over graves. The sky wa_vercast, and somewhere far off an early cock crew. A little ways off, beyon_ line of scattered juniper trees, which marked the pathway to the church, _hite dim figure flitted in the direction of the tomb. The tomb itself wa_idden by trees, and I could not see where the figure had disappeared. I hear_he rustle of actual movement where I had first seen the white figure, an_oming over, found the Professor holding in his arms a tiny child. When he sa_e he held it out to me, and said, "Are you satisfied now?"
"No," I said, in a way that I felt was aggressive.
"Do you not see the child?"
"Yes, it is a child, but who brought it here? And is it wounded?"
"We shall see,"said the Professor, and with one impulse we took our way out o_he churchyard, he carrying the sleeping child.
When we had got some little distance away, we went into a clump of trees, an_truck a match, and looked at the child's throat. It was without a scratch o_car of any kind.
"Was I right?" I asked triumphantly.
"We were just in time," said the Professor thankfully.
We had now to decide what we were to do with the child, and so consulted abou_t. If we were to take it to a police station we should have to give som_ccount of our movements during the night. At least, we should have had t_ake some statement as to how we had come to find the child. So finally w_ecided that we would take it to the Heath, and when we heard a policema_oming, would leave it where he could not fail to find it. We would then see_ur way home as quickly as we could. All fell out well. At the edge o_ampstead Heath we heard a policeman's heavy tramp, and laying the child o_he pathway, we waited and watched until he saw it as he flashed his lanter_o and fro. We heard his exclamation of astonishment, and then we went awa_ilently. By good chance we got a cab near the `Spainiards,' and drove t_own.
I cannot sleep, so I make this entry. But I must try to get a few hours'
sleep, as Van Helsing is to call for me at noon. He insists that I go with hi_n another expedition.
27 September.—It was two o'clock before we found a suitable opportunity fo_ur attempt. The funeral held at noon was all completed, and the las_tragglers of the mourners had taken themselves lazily away, when, lookin_arefully from behind a clump of alder trees, we saw the sexton lock the gat_fter him. We knew that we were safe till morning did we desire it, but th_rofessor told me that we should not want more than an hour at most. Again _elt that horrid sense of the reality of things, in which any effort o_magination seemed out of place, and I realized distinctly the perils of th_aw which we were incurring in our unhallowed work. Besides, I felt it was al_o useless. Outrageous as it was to open a leaden coffin, to see if a woma_ead nearly a week were really dead, it now seemed the height of folly to ope_he tomb again, when we knew, from the evidence of our own eyesight, that th_offin was empty. I shrugged my shoulders, however, and rested silent, for Va_elsing had a way of going on his own road, no matter who remonstrated. H_ook the key, opened the vault, and again courteously motioned me to precede.
The place was not so gruesome as last night, but oh, how unutterably mea_ooking when the sunshine streamed in. Van Helsing walked over to Lucy'_offin, and I followed. He bent over and again forced back the leaden flange, and a shock of surprise and dismay shot through me.
There lay Lucy, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before he_uneral. She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever, and I coul_ot believe that she was dead. The lips were red, nay redder than before, an_n the cheeks was a delicate bloom.
"Is this a juggle?" I said to him.
"Are you convinced now?" said the Professor, in response, and as he spoke h_ut over his hand, and in a way that made me shudder, pulled back the dea_ips and showed the white teeth. "See," he went on,"they are even sharper tha_efore. With this and this," and he touched one of the canine teeth and tha_elow it, "the little children can be bitten. Are you of belief now, frien_ohn?"
Once more argumentative hostility woke within me. I could not accept such a_verwhelming idea as he suggested. So, with an attempt to argue of which I wa_ven at the moment ashamed, I said, "She may have been placed here since las_ight."
"Indeed? That is so, and by whom?"
"I do not know. Someone has done it."
"And yet she has been dead one week. Most peoples in that time would not loo_o."
I had no answer for this, so was silent. Van Helsing did not seem to notice m_ilence. At any rate, he showed neither chagrin nor triumph. He was lookin_ntently at the face of the dead woman, raising the eyelids and looking at th_yes, and once more opening the lips and examining the teeth. Then he turne_o me and said,
"Here, there is one thing which is different from all recorded. Here is som_ual life that is not as the common. She was bitten by the vampire when sh_as in a trance, sleep-walking, oh, you start. You do not know that, frien_ohn, but you shall know it later, and in trance could he best come to tak_ore blood. In trance she dies, and in trance she is Un-Dead, too. So it i_hat she differ from all other. Usually when the Un-Dead sleep at home," as h_poke he made a comprehensive sweep of his arm to designate what to a vampir_as `home', "their face show what they are, but this so sweet that was whe_he not Un-Dead she go back to the nothings of the common dead. There is n_align there, see, and so it make hard that I must kill her in her sleep."
This turned my blood cold, and it began to dawn upon me that I was acceptin_an Helsing's theories. But if she were really dead, what was there of terro_n the idea of killing her?
He looked up at me, and evidently saw the change in my face, for he sai_lmost joyously, "Ah, you believe now?"
I answered, "Do not press me too hard all at once. I am willing to accept. Ho_ill you do this bloody work?"
"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive _take through her body."
It made me shudder to think of so mutilating the body of the woman whom I ha_oved. And yet the feeling was not so strong as I had expected. I was, i_act, beginning to shudder at the presence of this being, this Un-Dead, as Va_elsing called it, and to loathe it. Is it possible that love is al_ubjective, or all objective?
I waited a considerable time for Van Helsing to begin, but he stood as i_rapped in thought. Presently he closed the catch of his bag with a snap, an_aid,
"I have been thinking, and have made up my mind as to what is best. If I di_imply follow my inclining I would do now, at this moment, what is to be done.
But there are other things to follow, and things that are thousand times mor_ifficult in that them we do not know. This is simple. She have yet no lif_aken, though that is of time, and to act now would be to take danger from he_orever. But then we may have to want Arthur, and how shall we tell him o_his? If you, who saw the wounds on Lucy's throat, and saw the wounds s_imilar on the child's at the hospital, if you, who saw the coffin empty las_ight and full today with a woman who have not change only to be more rose an_ore beautiful in a whole week, after she die, if you know of this and know o_he white figure last night that brought the child to the churchyard, and ye_f your own senses you did not believe, how then, can I expect Arthur, wh_now none of those things, to believe?
"He doubted me when I took him from her kiss when she was dying. I know he ha_orgiven me because in some mistaken idea I have done things that prevent hi_ay goodbye as he ought, and he may think that in some more mistaken idea thi_oman was buried alive, and that in most mistake of all we have killed her. H_ill then argue back that it is we, mistaken ones, that have killed her by ou_deas, and so he will be much unhappy always. Yet he never can be sure, an_hat is the worst of all. And he will sometimes think that she he loved wa_uried alive, and that will paint his dreams with horrors of what she mus_ave suffered, and again, he will think that we may be right, and that his s_eloved was, after all, an Un-Dead. No! I told him once, and since then _earn much. Now, since I know it is all true, a hundred thousand times more d_ know that he must pass through the bitter waters to reach the sweet. He, poor fellow, must have one hour that will make the very face of heaven gro_lack to him, then we can act for good all round and send him peace. My min_s made up. Let us go. You return home for tonight to your asylum, and se_hat all be well. As for me, I shall spend the night here in this churchyar_n my own way. Tomorrow night you will come to me to the Berkeley Hotel at te_f the clock. I shall send for Arthur to come too, and also that so fine youn_an of America that gave his blood. Later we shall all have work to do. I com_ith you so far as Piccadilly and there dine, for I must be back here befor_he sun set."
So we locked the tomb and came away, and got over the wall of the churchyard, which was not much of a task, and drove back to Piccadilly.
NOTE LEFT BY VAN HELSING IN HIS PORTMANTEAU, BERKELEY HOTEL DIRECTED TO JOH_EWARD, M. D. (Not Delivered)
"I write this in case anything should happen. I go alone to watch in tha_hurchyard. It pleases me that the Un-Dead, Miss Lucy, shall not leav_onight, that so on the morrow night she may be more eager. Therefore I shal_ix some things she like not, garlic and a crucifix, and so seal up the doo_f the tomb. She is young as Un-Dead, and will heed. Moreover, these are onl_o prevent her coming out. They may not prevail on her wanting to get in, fo_hen the Un-Dead is desperate, and must find the line of least resistance, whatsoever it may be. I shall be at hand all the night from sunset till afte_unrise, and if there be aught that may be learned I shall learn it. For Mis_ucy or from her, I have no fear, but that other to whom is there that she i_n-Dead, he have not the power to seek her tomb and find shelter. He i_unning, as I know from Mr. Jonathan and from the way that all along he hav_ooled us when he played with us for Miss Lucy's life, and we lost, and i_any ways the Un-Dead are strong. He have always the strength in his hand o_wenty men, even we four who gave our strength to Miss Lucy it also is all t_im. Besides, he can summon his wolf and I know not what. So if it be that h_ame thither on this night he shall find me. But none other shall, until it b_oo late. But it may be that he will not attempt the place. There is no reaso_hy he should. His hunting ground is more full of game than the churchyar_here the Un-Dead woman sleeps, and the one old man watch.
"Therefore I write this in case … Take the papers that are with this, th_iaries of Harker and the rest, and read them, and then find this great Un- Dead, and cut off his head and burn his heart or drive a stake through it, s_hat the world may rest from him.
"If it be so, farewell.
DR. SEWARD'S DIARY
28 September.—It is wonderful what a good night's sleep will do for one.
Yesterday I was almost willing to accept Van Helsing's monstrous ideas, bu_ow they seem to start out lurid before me as outrages on common sense. I hav_o doubt that he believes it all. I wonder if his mind can have become in an_ay unhinged. Surely there must be some rational explanation of all thes_ysterious things. Is it possible that the Professor can have done it himself?
He is so abnormally clever that if he went off his head he would carry out hi_ntent with regard to some fixed idea in a wonderful way. I am loathe to thin_t, and indeed it would be almost as great a marvel as the other to find tha_an Helsing was mad, but anyhow I shall watch him carefully. I may get som_ight on the mystery.
29 September.—Last night, at a little before ten o'clock, Arthur and Quince_ame into Van Helsing's room. He told us all what he wanted us to do, bu_specially addressing himself to Arthur, as if all our wills were centered i_is. He began by saying that he hoped we would all come with him too, "for,"
he said, "there is a grave duty to be done there. You were doubtless surprise_t my letter?" This query was directly addressed to Lord Godalming. "I was. I_ather upset me for a bit. There has been so much trouble around my house o_ate that I could do without any more. I have been curious, too, as to wha_ou mean.
"Quincey and I talked it over, but the more we talked, the more puzzled w_ot, till now I can say for myself that I'm about up a tree as to any meanin_bout anything."
"Me too," said Quincey Morris laconically.
"Oh," said the Professor, "then you are nearer the beginning, both of you, than friend John here, who has to go a long way back before he can even get s_ar as to begin."
It was evident that he recognized my return to my old doubting frame of min_ithout my saying a word. Then, turning to the other two, he said with intens_ravity,
"I want your permission to do what I think good this night. It is, I know, much to ask, and when you know what it is I propose to do you will know, an_nly then how much. Therefore may I ask that you promise me in the dark, s_hat afterwards, though you may be angry with me for a time, I must no_isguise from myself the possibility that such may be, you shall not blam_ourselves for anything."
"That's frank anyhow," broke in Quincey. "I'll answer for the Professor. _on't quite see his drift, but I swear he's honest, and that's good enough fo_e."
"I thank you, Sir," said Van Helsing proudly. "I have done myself the honor o_ounting you one trusting friend, and such endorsement is dear to me." He hel_ut a hand, which Quincey took.
Then Arthur spoke out, "Dr. Van Helsing, I don't quite like to `buy a pig in _oke', as they say in Scotland, and if it be anything in which my honour as _entleman or my faith as a Christian is concerned, I cannot make such _romise. If you can assure me that what you intend does not violate either o_hese two, then I give my consent at once, though for the life of me, I canno_nderstand what you are driving at."
"I accept your limitation," said Van Helsing, "and all I ask of you is that i_ou feel it necessary to condemn any act of mine, you will first consider i_ell and be satisfied that it does not violate your reservations."
"Agreed!" said Arthur. "That is only fair. And now that the pourparlers ar_ver, may I ask what it is we are to do?"
"I want you to come with me, and to come in secret, to the churchyard a_ingstead."
Arthur's face fell as he said in an amazed sort of way,
"Where poor Lucy is buried?"
The Professor bowed.
Arthur went on, "And when there?"
"To enter the tomb!"
Arthur stood up. "Professor, are you in earnest, or is it some monstrous joke?
Pardon me, I see that you are in earnest." He sat down again, but I could se_hat he sat firmly and proudly, as one who is on his dignity. There wa_ilence until he asked again, "And when in the tomb?"
"To open the coffin."
"This is too much!" he said, angrily rising again. "I am willing to be patien_n all things that are reasonable, but in this, this desecration of the grave, of one who … " He fairly choked with indignation.
The Professor looked pityingly at him."If I could spare you one pang, my poo_riend," he said, "God knows I would. But this night our feet must tread i_horny paths, or later, and for ever, the feet you love must walk in paths o_lame!"
Arthur looked up with set white face and said, "Take care, sir, take care!"
"Would it not be well to hear what I have to say?" said Van Helsing. "And the_ou will at least know the limit of my purpose. Shall I go on?"
"That's fair enough," broke in Morris.
After a pause Van Helsing went on, evidently with an effort, "Miss Lucy i_ead, is it not so? Yes! Then there can be no wrong to her. But if she be no_ead… "
Arthur jumped to his feet, "Good God!" he cried. "What do you mean? Has ther_een any mistake, has she been buried alive?"He groaned in anguish that no_ven hope could soften.
"I did not say she was alive, my child. I did not think it. I go no furthe_han to say that she might be Un-Dead."
"Un-Dead! Not alive! What do you mean? Is this all a nightmare, or what i_t?"
"There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they ma_olve only in part. Believe me, we are now on the verge of one. But I have no_one. May I cut off the head of dead Miss Lucy?"
"Heavens and earth, no!" cried Arthur in a storm of passion. "Not for the wid_orld will I consent to any mutilation of her dead body. Dr. Van Helsing, yo_ry me too far. What have I done to you that you should torture me so? Wha_id that poor, sweet girl do that you should want to cast such dishonor on he_rave? Are you mad, that you speak of such things, or am I mad to listen t_hem? Don't dare think more of such a desecration. I shall not give my consen_o anything you do. I have a duty to do in protecting her grave from outrage, and by God, I shall do it!"
Van Helsing rose up from where he had all the time been seated, and said, gravely and sternly, "My Lord Godalming, I too, have a duty to do, a duty t_thers, a duty to you, a duty to the dead, and by God, I shall do it! All _sk you now is that you come with me, that you look and listen, and if whe_ater I make the same request you do not be more eager for its fulfillmen_ven than I am, then, I shall do my duty, whatever it may seem to me. An_hen, to follow your Lordship's wishes I shall hold myself at your disposal t_ender an account to you, when and where you will." His voice broke a little, and he went on with a voice full of pity.
"But I beseech you, do not go forth in anger with me. In a long life of act_hich were often not pleasant to do, and which sometimes did wring my heart, _ave never had so heavy a task as now. Believe me that if the time comes fo_ou to change your mind towards me, one look from you will wipe away all thi_o sad hour, for I would do what a man can to save you from sorrow. Jus_hink. For why should I give myself so much labor and so much of sorrow? _ave come here from my own land to do what I can of good, at the first t_lease my friend John, and then to help a sweet young lady, whom too, I com_o love. For her, I am ashamed to say so much, but I say it in kindness, _ave what you gave, the blood of my veins. I gave it, I who was not, like you, her lover, but only her physician and her friend. I gave her my nights an_ays, before death, after death, and if my death can do her good even now, when she is the dead Un-Dead, she shall have it freely." He said this with _ery grave, sweet pride, and Arthur was much affected by it.
He took the old man's hand and said in a broken voice, "Oh, it is hard t_hink of it, and I cannot understand, but at least I shall go with you an_ait."