Together we moved over to the bed, and I lifted the lawn from her face.God! how beautiful she was. Every hour seemed to be enhancing herloveliness. It frightened and amazed me somewhat; and as for Arthur, hefell a-trembling, and finally was shaken with doubt as with an ague. Atlast, after a long pause, he said to me in a faint whisper:--
"Jack, is she really dead?"
I assured him sadly that it was so, and went on to suggest--for I feltthat such a horrible doubt should not have life for a moment longerthan I could help--that it often happened that after death faces becamesoftened and even resolved into their youthful beauty; that this wasespecially so when death had been preceded by any acute or prolongedsuffering. It seemed to quite do away with any doubt, and, afterkneeling beside the couch for a while and looking at her lovingly andlong, he turned aside. I told him that that must be good-bye, as thecoffin had to be prepared; so he went back and took her dead hand inhis and kissed it, and bent over and kissed her forehead. He came away,fondly looking back over his shoulder at her as he came.
I left him in the drawing-room, and told Van Helsing that he had saidgood-bye; so the latter went to the kitchen to tell the undertaker'smen to proceed with the preparations and to screw up the coffin. Whenhe came out of the room again I told him of Arthur's question, and hereplied:--
"I am not surprised. Just now I doubted for a moment myself!"
We all dined together, and I could see that poor Art was trying to makethe best of things. Van Helsing had been silent all dinner-time, butwhen we had lit our cigars he said:--
"Lord----;" but Arthur interrupted him:--
"No, no, not that, for God's sake! not yet at any rate. Forgive me, sir:I did not mean to speak offensively; it is only because my loss is sorecent."
The Professor answered very sweetly:--
"I only used that name because I was in doubt. I must not call you'Mr.,' and I have grown to love you--yes, my dear boy, to love you--asArthur."
Arthur held out his hand, and took the old man's warmly.
"Call me what you will," he said. "I hope I may always have the title ofa friend. And let me say that I am at a loss for words to thank you foryour goodness to my poor dear." He paused a moment, and went on: "I knowthat she understood your goodness even better than I do; and if I wasrude or in any way wanting at that time you acted so--you remember"--theProfessor nodded--"you must forgive me."
He answered with a grave kindness:--
"I know it was hard for you to quite trust me then, for to trust suchviolence needs to understand; and I take it that you do not--that youcannot--trust me now, for you do not yet understand. And there may bemore times when I shall want you to trust when you cannot--and maynot--and must not yet understand. But the time will come when your trustshall be whole and complete in me, and when you shall understand asthough the sunlight himself shone through. Then you shall bless me fromfirst to last for your own sake, and for the sake of others, and for herdear sake to whom I swore to protect."
"And, indeed, indeed, sir," said Arthur warmly, "I shall in all waystrust you. I know and believe you have a very noble heart, and you areJack's friend, and you were hers. You shall do what you like."
The Professor cleared his throat a couple of times, as though about tospeak, and finally said:--
"May I ask you something now?"
"You know that Mrs. Westenra left you all her property?"
"No, poor dear; I never thought of it."
"And as it is all yours, you have a right to deal with it as you will.I want you to give me permission to read all Miss
Lucy's papers andletters. Believe me, it is no idle curiosity. I have a motive of which,be sure, she would have approved. I have them all here. I took thembefore we knew that all was yours, so that no strange hand might touchthem--no strange eye look through words into her soul. I shall keepthem, if I may; even you may not see them yet, but I shall keep themsafe. No word shall be lost; and in the good time I shall give them backto you. It's a hard thing I ask, but you will do it, will you not, forLucy's sake?"
Arthur spoke out heartily, like his old self:--
"Dr. Van Helsing, you may do what you will. I feel that in saying this Iam doing what my dear one would have approved. I shall not trouble youwith questions till the time comes."
The old Professor stood up as he said solemnly:--
"And you are right. There will be pain for us all; but it will not beall pain, nor will this pain be the last. We and you too--you most ofall, my dear boy--will have to pass through the bitter water before wereach the sweet. But we must be brave of heart and unselfish, and do ourduty, and all will be well!"
I slept on a sofa in Arthur's room that night. Van Helsing did not goto bed at all. He went to and fro, as if patrolling the house, and wasnever out of sight of the room where Lucy lay in her coffin, strewn withthe wild garlic flowers, which sent, through the odour of lily and rose,a heavy, overpowering smell into the night.
_Mina Harker's Journal._
_22 September._--In the train to Exeter. Jonathan sleeping.
It seems only yesterday that the last entry was made, and yet how muchbetween them, in Whitby and all the world before me, Jonathan away andno news of him; and now, married to Jonathan, Jonathan a solicitor, apartner, rich, master of his business, Mr. Hawkins dead and buried, andJonathan with another attack that may harm him. Some day he may askme about it. Down it all goes. I am rusty in my shorthand--see whatunexpected prosperity does for us--so it may be as well to freshen it upagain with an exercise anyhow....