The neighbourhood of Hampstead is just at present exercised with aseries of events which seem to run on lines parallel to those of whatwas known to the writers of headlines as "The Kensington Horror," or"The Stabbing Woman," or "The Woman in Black." During the past twoor three days several cases have occurred of young children strayingfrom home or neglecting to return from their playing on the Heath.In all these cases the children were too young to give any properlyintelligible account of themselves, but the consensus of their excusesis that they had been with a "bloofer lady." It has always been latein the evening when they have been missed, and on two occasions thechildren have not been found until early in the following morning. Itis generally supposed in the neighbourhood that, as the first childmissed gave as his reason for being away that a "bloofer lady" hadasked him to come for a walk, the others had picked up the phrase andused it as occasion served. This is the more natural as the favouritegame of the little ones at present is luring each other away by wiles.A correspondent writes us that to see some of the tiny tots pretendingto be the "bloofer lady" is supremely funny. Some of our caricaturistsmight, he says, take a lesson in the irony of grotesque by comparingthe reality and the picture. It is only in accordance with generalprinciples of human nature that the "bloofer lady" should be the popularrole at these _al fresco_ performances. Our correspondent naivelysays that even Ellen Terry could not be so winningly attractive assome of these grubby-faced little children pretend--and even imaginethemselves--to be.
There is, however, possibly a serious side to the question, for someof the children, indeed all who have been missed at night, have beenslightly torn or wounded in the throat. The wounds seem such as mightbe made by a rat or a small dog, and although of not much importanceindividually, would tend to show that whatever animal inflicts them hasa system or method of its own. The police of the division have beeninstructed to keep a sharp lookout for straying children, especiallywhen very young, in and around Hampstead Heath, and for any stray dogwhich may be about.
_"The Westminster Gazette," 25 September._
THE HAMPSTEAD HORROR.
/Another Child Injured./
_The "Bloofer Lady."_
We have just received intelligence that another child, missed lastnight, was only discovered late in the morning under a furze bush atthe Shooter's Hill side of Hampstead Heath, which is, perhaps, lessfrequented than the other parts. It has the same tiny wound in thethroat as has been noticed in other cases. It was terribly weak, andlooked quite emaciated. It too, when partially restored, had the commonstory to tell of being lured away by the "bloofer lady."
/Mina Harker's Journal./
_23 September._--Jonathan is better after a bad night. I am so glad thathe has plenty of work to do, for that keeps his mind off the terriblethings; and oh, I am rejoiced that he is not now weighed down with theresponsibility of his new position. I knew he would be true to himself,and now how proud I am to see my Jonathan rising to the height of hisadvancement and keeping pace in all ways with the duties that come uponhim. He will be away all day till late, for he said he could not lunchat home. My household work is done, so I shall take his foreign journal,and lock myself up in my room and read it....
_24 September._--I hadn't the heart to write last night; that terriblerecord of Jonathan's upset me so. Poor dear! How he must have suffered,whether it be true or only imagination. I wonder if there is any truthin it at all. Did he get his brain fever, and then write all thoseterrible things; or had he some cause for it all? I suppose I shallnever know, for I dare not open the subject to him.... And yet thatman we saw yesterday! He seemed quite certain of him.... Poor fellow!I suppose it was the funeral upset him and sent his mind back on sometrain of thought.... He believes it all himself. I remember how onour wedding-day he said: "Unless some solemn duty come upon me to goback to the bitter hours, asleep or awake, mad or sane." There seemsto be through it all some thread of continuity.... That fearful Countwas coming to London.... "If it should be, and he came to London, withits teeming millions." ... There may be a solemn duty; and if it comewe must not shrink from it.... I shall be prepared. I shall get mytypewriter this very hour and begin transcribing. Then we shall be readyfor other eyes if required. And if it be wanted; then, perhaps, if I amready, poor Jonathan may not be upset, for I can speak for him and neverlet him be troubled or worried with it all. If ever Jonathan quite getsover the nervousness he may want to tell me of it all, and I can ask himquestions and find out things, and see how I may comfort him.
_Letter, Van Helsing to Mrs. Harker._
"_24 September._ (_Confidence._)
"I pray you to pardon my writing, in that I am so far friend as that Isend to you sad news of Miss Lucy Westenra's death. By the kindness ofLord Godalming, I am empowered to read her letters and papers, for Iam deeply concerned about certain matters vitally important. In them Ifind some letters from you, which show how great friends you were andhow you love her. Oh, Madam Mina, by that love, I implore you, help me.It is for others' good that I ask--to redress great wrong, and to liftmuch and terrible troubles--that may be more great than you can know.May it be that I see you? You can trust me. I am a friend of Dr. JohnSeward and of Lord Godalming (that was Arthur of Miss Lucy). I must keepit private for the present from all. I should come to Exeter to see youat once if you tell me I am privilege to come, and where and when. Iimplore your pardon, madam. I have read your letters to poor Lucy, andknow how good you are and how your husband suffer; so I pray you, ifit may be, enlighten him not, lest it may harm. Again your pardon, andforgive me.
_Telegram, Mrs. Harker to Van Helsing._
"_25 September._--Come to-day by quarter-past ten train if you can catchit. Can see you any time you call.
/Mina Harker's Journal./
_25 September._--I cannot help feeling terribly excited as the timedraws near for the visit of Dr. Van Helsing, for somehow I expectit will throw some light upon Jonathan's sad experience; and as heattended poor dear Lucy in her last illness, he can tell me all abouther. That is the reason for his coming; it is concerning Lucy and hersleep-walking, and not about Jonathan. Then I shall never know thereal truth now! How silly I am. That awful journal gets hold of myimagination and tinges everything with something of its own colour. Ofcourse it is about Lucy. That habit came back to the poor dear, and thatawful night on the cliff must have made her ill. I had almost forgottenin my own affairs how ill she was afterwards. She must have told him ofher sleep-walking adventure on the cliff, and that I knew all about it;and now he wants me to tell him about it, so that he may understand. Ihope I did right in not saying anything of it to Mrs. Westenra; I shouldnever forgive myself if any act of mine, were it even a negative one,brought harm on poor dear Lucy. I hope, too, Dr. Van Helsing will notblame me; I have had so much trouble and anxiety of late that I feel Icannot bear more just at present.
I suppose a cry does us all good at times--clears the air as other raindoes. Perhaps it was reading the journal yesterday that upset me, andthen Jonathan went away this morning to stay away from me a whole dayand night, the first time we have been parted since our marriage. I dohope the dear fellow will take care of himself, and that nothing willoccur to upset him. It is two o'clock and the doctor will be here soonnow. I shall say nothing of Jonathan's journal unless he asks me. I amso glad I have typewritten out my own journal, so that, in case he asksabout Lucy, I can hand it to him; it will save much questioning.
_Later._--He has come and gone. Oh, what a strange meeting, and howit all makes my head whirl round! I feel like one in a dream. Can itbe all possible, or even a part of it? If I had not read Jonathan'sjournal first, I should never have accepted even a possibility. Poor,poor, dear Jonathan! How he must have suffered. Please the good God allthis may not upset him again. I shall try to save him from it; but itmay be even a consolation and a help to him--terrible though it be andawful in its consequences--to know for certain that his eyes and earsand brain did not deceive him, and that it is all true. It may be thatit is the doubt which haunts him; that when the doubt is removed, nomatter which--waking or dreaming--may prove the truth, he will be moresatisfied and better able to bear the shock. Dr. Van Helsing must bea good man as well as a clever one if he is Arthur's friend and Dr.Seward's, and if they brought him all the way from Holland to look afterLucy. I feel from having seen him that he is good and kind and of anoble nature. When he comes tomorrow I shall ask him about Jonathan;and then, please God, all this sorrow and anxiety may lead to a goodend. I used to think I would like to practise interviewing; Jonathan'sfriend on "The Exeter News" told him that memory was everything insuch work--that you must be able to put down exactly almost every wordspoken, even if you had to refine some of it afterwards. Here was a rareinterview; I shall try to record it _verbatim_.
It was half-past two o'clock when the knock came. I took my courage_a deux mains_ and waited. In a few minutes Mary opened the door, andannounced "Dr. Van Helsing."
I rose and bowed, and he came towards me; a man of medium height,strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest anda neck well balanced on the trunk as the head is on the neck. The poiseof the head strikes one at once as indicative of thought and power; thehead is noble, well-sized, broad, and large behind the ears. The face,clean-shaven, shows a hard, square chin, a large, resolute, mobilemouth, a good-sized nose, rather straight, but with quick, sensitivenostrils, that seem to broaden as the big, bushy eyebrows come down andthe mouth tightens. The forehead is broad and fine, rising at firstalmost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wideapart; such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumbleover it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyesare set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man'smoods. He said to me:--
"Mrs. Harker, is it not?" I bowed assent.
"That was Miss Mina Murray?" Again I assented.
"It is Mina Murray that I came to see that was friend of that poor dearchild Lucy Westenra. Madam Mina, it is on account of the dead I come."
"Sir," I said, "you could have no better claim on me than that you werea friend and helper of Lucy Westenra." And I held out my hand. He tookit and said tenderly:--