I was handing him the half-sovereign, when something came bobbing upagainst the window, and Mr. Bilder's face doubled its natural lengthwith surprise.
"God bless me!" he said. "If there ain't old Bersicker come back by'isself!"
He went to the door and opened it; a most unnecessary proceeding itseemed to me. I have always thought that a wild animal never looks sowell as when some obstacle of pronounced durability is between us; apersonal experience has intensified rather than diminished that idea.
After all, however, there is nothing like custom, for neither Bildernor his wife thought any more of the wolf than I should of a dog. Theanimal itself was as p
eaceful and well-behaved as that father of allpicture-wolves--Red Riding Hood's quondam friend, whilst seeking herconfidence in masquerade.
The whole scene was an unutterable mixture of comedy and pathos. Thewicked wolf that for half a day had paralysed London and set all thechildren in the town shivering in their shoes, was there in a sortof penitent mood, and was received and petted like a sort of vulpineprodigal son. Old Bilder examined him all over with most tendersolicitude, and when he had finished with his penitent said:--
"There, I knew the poor old chap would get into some kind of trouble;didn't I say it all along? Here's his head all cut and full of brokenglass. 'E's been a-gettin' over some bloomin' wall or other. It's ashyme that people are allowed to top their walls with broken bottles.This 'ere's what comes of it. Come along, Bersicker."
He took the wolf and locked him up in a cage, with a piece of meat thatsatisfied, in quantity at any rate, the elementary conditions of thefatted calf, and went off to report.
I came off, too, to report the only exclusive information that is givento-day regarding the strange escapade at the Zoo.
_Dr. Seward's Diary._
_17 September._--I was engaged after dinner in my study posting upmy books, which, through press of other work and the many visits toLucy, had fallen sadly into arrear. Suddenly the door was burst open,and in rushed my patient, with his face distorted with passion. I wasthunder-struck, for such a thing as a patient getting of his own accordinto the Superintendent's study is almost unknown. Without an instant'spause he made straight at me. He had a dinner-knife in his hand, and, asI saw he was dangerous, I tried to keep the table between us. He was tooquick and too strong for me, however; for before I could get my balancehe had struck at me and cut my left wrist rather severely. Before hecould strike again, however, I got in my right, and he was sprawlingon his back on the floor. My wrist bled freely, and quite a littlepool trickled on to the carpet. I saw that my friend was not intent onfurther effort, and occupied myself binding up my wrist, keeping a waryeye on the prostrate figure all the time. When the attendants rushed in,and we turned our attention to him, his employment positively sickenedme. He was lying on his belly on the floor licking up, like a dog, theblood which had fallen from my wounded wrist. He was easily secured,and, to my surprise, went with the attendants quite placidly, simplyrepeating over and over again: "The blood is the life! the blood is thelife!"
I cannot afford to lose blood just at present: I have lost too muchof late for my physical good, and the then prolonged strain of Lucy'sillness and its horrible phases is telling on me. I am over-excited andweary, and I need rest, rest, rest. Happily Van Helsing has not summonedme, so I need not forego my sleep; to-night I could not well do withoutit.
_Telegram, Van Helsing, Antwerp, to Seward, Carfax._
(Sent to Carfax, Sussex, as no county given; delivered late bytwenty-two hours.)
"_17 September._--Do not fail to be at Hillingham to-night. If notwatching all the time, frequently visit to see that flowers are asplaced; very important; do not fail. Shall be with you as soon aspossible after arrival."
_Dr. Seward's Diary._
_18 September._--Just off for train to London. The arrival of VanHelsing's telegram filled me with dismay. A whole night lost, andI know by bitter experience what may happen in a night. Of courseit is possible that all may be well, but what _may_ have happened?Surely there is some horrible doom hanging over us that every possibleaccident should thwart us in all we try to do. I shall take thiscylinder with me, and then I can complete my entry on Lucy's phonograph.
_Memorandum left by Lucy Westenra._
_17 September. Night._--I write this and leave it to be seen, so thatno one may by chance get into any trouble through me. This is an exactrecord of what took place tonight. I feel I am dying of weakness, andhave barely strength to write, but it must be done if I die in thedoing.
I went to bed as usual, taking care that the flowers were placed as Dr.Van Helsing directed, and soon fell asleep.
I was waked by the flapping at the window, which had begun after thesleep-walking on the cliff at Whitby when Mina saved me, and which nowI know so well. I was not afraid, but I did wish that Dr. Seward was inthe next room--as Dr. Van Helsing said he would be--so that I might havecalled him. I tried to go to sleep, but could not. Then there came to methe old fear of sleep, and I determined to keep awake. Perversely sleepwould try to come when I did not want it; so, as I feared to be alone,I opened my door and called out: "Is there anybody there?" There was noanswer. I was afraid to wake mother, and so closed my door again. Thenoutside in the shrubbery I heard a sort of howl like a dog's, but morefierce and deeper. I went to the window and looked out, but could seenothing, except a big bat, which had evidently been buffeting its wingsagainst the window. So I went back to bed again, but determined not togo to sleep. Presently the door opened, and mother looked in; seeing bymy moving that I was not asleep, came in, and sat by me. She said to meeven more sweetly and softly than her wont:--
"I was uneasy about you, darling, and came in to see that you were allright."
I feared she might catch cold sitting there, and asked her to come inand sleep with me, so she came into bed, and lay down beside me; shedid not take off her dressing gown, for she said she would only stayawhile and then go back to her own bed. As she lay there in my arms,and I in hers, the flapping and buffeting came to the window again. Shewas startled and a little frightened, and cried out: "What is that?" Itried to pacify her, and at last succeeded, and she lay quiet; but Icould hear her poor dear heart still beating terribly. After a whilethere was the low howl again out in the shrubbery, and shortly afterthere was a crash at the window, and a lot of broken glass was hurledon the floor. The window blind blew back with the wind that rushed in,and in the aperture of the broken panes there was the head of a greatgaunt grey wolf. Mother cried out in a fright, and struggled up into asitting posture, and clutched wildly at anything that would help her.Amongst other things, she clutched the wreath of flowers that Dr. VanHelsing insisted on my wearing round my neck, and tore it away from me.For a second or two she sat up, pointing at the wolf, and there was astrange and horrible gurgling in her throat; then she fell over, as ifstruck with lightning, and her head hit my forehead and made me dizzyfor a moment or two. The room and all round seemed to spin round. Ikept my eyes fixed on the window, but the wolf drew his head back, anda whole myriad of little specks seemed to come blowing in through thebroken window, and wheeling and circling round like the pillar of dustthat travellers describe when there is a simoom in the desert. I triedto stir, but there was some spell upon me, and dear mother's poor body,which seemed to grow cold already--for her dear heart had ceased tobeat--weighed me down; and I remembered no more for a while.
The time did not seem long, but very, very awful, till I recoveredconsciousness again. Somewhere near, a passing bell was tolling; thedogs all round the neighbourhood were howling; and in our shrubbery,seemingly just outside, a nightingale was singing. I was dazed andstupid with pain and terror and weakness, but the sound of thenightingale seemed like the voice of my dead mother come back to comfortme. The sounds seemed to have awakened the maids, too, for I could heartheir bare feet pattering outside my door. I called to them, and theycame in, and when they saw what had happened, and what it was that layover me in the bed, they screamed out. The wind rushed in through thebroken window, and the door slammed to. They lifted off the body of mydear mother and laid her, covered up with a sheet, on the bed after Ihad got up. They were all so frightened and nervous that I directed themto go to the dining-room and have each a glass of wine. The door flewopen for an instant and closed again. The maids shrieked, and then wentin a body to the dining-room; and I laid what flowers I had on my dearmother's breast. When they were there I remembered what Dr. Van Helsinghad told me, but I didn't like to remove them, and, besides, I wouldhave some of the servants to sit up with me now. I was surprised thatthe maids did not come back. I called them, but got no answer, so I wentto the
dining-room to look for them.
My heart sank when I saw what had happened. They all four lay helplesson the floor, breathing heavily. The decanter of sherry was on the tablehalf full, but there was a queer, acrid smell about. I was suspicious,and examined the decanter. It smelt of laudanum, and looking on thesideboard, I found that the bottle which mother's doctor uses forher--oh! did use--was empty. What am I to do? What am I to do? I am backin the room with mother. I cannot leave her, and I am alone, save forthe sleeping servants, whom some one has drugged. Alone with the dead!I dare not go out, for I can hear the low howl of the wolf through thebroken window.
The air seems full of specks, floating and circling in the draught fromthe window, and the lights burn blue and dim. What am I to do? Godshield me from harm this night! I shall hide this paper in my breast,where they shall find it when they come to lay me out. My dear mothergone! It is time that I go too. Good-bye, dear Arthur, if I should notsurvive this night. God keep you, dear, and God help me!
/Dr. Seward's Diary./
_18 September._--I drove at once to Hillingham and arrived early.Keeping my cab at the gate, I went up the avenue alone. I knockedgently and rang as quietly as possible, for I feared to disturb Lucyor her mother, and hoped to bring only a servant to the door. After awhile, finding no response, I knocked and rang again; still no answer.I cursed the laziness of the servants that they should lie abed at suchan hour--for it was now ten o'clock--and so rang and knocked again, butmore impatiently, and still without response. Hitherto I had blamedonly the servants, but now a terrible fear began to assail me. Was thisdesolation but another link in the chain of doom which seemed drawingtight around us? Was it indeed a house of death to which I had come toolate? I knew that minutes, even seconds, of delay might mean hours ofdanger to Lucy, if she had had again one of those frightful relapses;and I went round the house to try if I could to find by chance an entryanywhere.