"Take care, sir, take care!"
"Would it not be well to hear what I have to say?" said Van Helsing."And then you will at least know the limit of my purpose. Shall I goon?"
"That's fair enough," broke in Morris.
After a pause Van Helsing went on, evidently with an effort:--
"Miss Lucy is dead; is it not so? Yes! Then there can be no wrong toher. But if she be not dead----"
Arthur jumped to his feet.
"Good God!" he cried. "What do you mean? Has there been any mistake; hasshe been buried alive?" He groaned in anguish that not even hope couldsoften.
"I did not say she was alive, my child; I did not think it. I go nofurther than to say that she might be Un-Dead."
"Un-Dead! Not alive! What do you mean? Is this all a nightmare, or whatis it?"
"There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age theymay solve only in part. Believe me, we are now on the verge of one. ButI have not done. May I cut off the head of dead Miss Lucy?"
"Heavens and earth, no!" cried Arthur in a storm of passion. "Not forthe wide world will I consent to any mutilation of her dead body. Dr.Van Helsing, you try me too far. What have I done to you that you shouldtorture me so? What did that poor, sweet girl do that you should want tocast such dishonour on her grave? Are you mad that speak such things,or am I mad that listen to them? Don't dare to think more of such adesecration; I shall not give my consent to anything you do. I have aduty to do in protecting her grave from outrage; and, by God, I shall doit!"
Van Helsing rose up from where he had all the time been seated, andsaid, gravely and sternly:--
"My Lord Godalming, I, too, have a duty to do, a duty to others, aduty to you, a duty to the dead; and, by God, I shall do it! All I askyou now is that you come with me, that you look and listen; and ifwhen later I make the same request you do not be more eager for itsfulfilment even than I am, then--then I shall do my duty, whatever itmay seem to me. And then, to follow of your Lordship's wishes, I shallhold myself at your disposal to render an account to you, when and whereyou will." His voice broke a little, and he went on with an accent fullof pity:--
"But, I beseech you, do not go forth in anger with me. In a long life ofacts which were often not pleasant to do, and which sometimes did wringmy heart, I have never had so heavy a task as now. Believe me that ifthe time comes for you to change your mind towards me, one look from youwill wipe away all this so sad hour, for I would do what a man can tosave you from sorrow. Just think. For why should I give myself so muchof labour and so much of sorrow? I have come here from my own land todo what I can of good; at the first to please my friend John, and thento help a sweet young lady, whom, too, I came to love. For her--I amashamed to say so much, but I say it in kindness--I gave 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 to her my nights anddays--before death, after death; and if my death can do her good evennow, when she is the dead Un-Dead, she shall have it freely." He saidthis with a very 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 to think of it, and I cannot understand; but at least Iwill go with you and wait."
/Dr. Seward's Diary/--_continued._
It was just a quarter before twelve o'clock when we got into thechurchyard over the low wall. The night was dark, with occasionalgleams of moonlight between the rents of the heavy clouds that scuddedacross the sky. We all kept somehow close together, with Van Helsingslightly in front as he led the way. When we had come close to the tombI looked well at Arthur, for I feared that the proximity to a placeladen with so sorrowful a memory would upset him; but he bore himselfwell. I took it that the very mystery of the proceeding tended in someway a counteractent to his grief. The Professor unlocked the door, andseeing a natural hesitation amongst us for various reasons, solved thedifficulty by entering first himself. The rest of us followed, and heclosed the door. He then lit a dark lantern and pointed to the coffin.Arthur stepped forward hesitatingly; Van Helsing said to me:--
"You were with me here yesterday. Was the body of Miss Lucy in thatcoffin?"
"It was." The Professor turned to the rest, saying:--
"You hear; and yet there is one who does not believe with me." Hetook his screwdriver and again took off the lid of the coffin. Arthurlooked on, very pale but silent; when the lid was removed he steppedforward. He evidently did not know that there was a leaden coffin, or,at any rate, had not thought of it. When he saw the rent in the lead,the blood rushed to his face for an instant, but as quickly fell awayagain, so that he remained of a ghastly whiteness; he was still silent.Van Helsing forced back the leaden flange, and we all looked in andrecoiled.
The coffin was empty!
For several minutes no one spoke a word. The silence was broken byQuincey Morris:--
"Professor, I answered for you. Your word is all I want. I wouldn'task such a thing ordinarily--I wouldn't so dishonour you as to imply adoubt; but this is a mystery that goes beyond any honour or dishonour.Is this your doing?"
"I swear to you by all that I hold sacred that I have not removed nortouched her. What happened was this: Two nights ago my friend Seward andI came here--with good purpose, believe me. I opened that coffin, whichwas then sealed up, and we found it, as now, empty. We then waited, andsaw something white come through the trees. The next day we came here indaytime, and she lay there. Did she not, friend John?"
"That night we were just in time. One more so small child was missing,and we find it, thank God, unharmed amongst the graves. Yesterday I camehere before sundown, for at sundown the Un-Dead can move. I waited hereall the night till the sun rose, but I saw nothing. It was most probablethat it was because I had laid over the clamps of those doors garlic,which the Un-Dead cannot bear, and other things which they shun. Lastnight there was no exodus, so to-night before the sundown I took awaymy garlic and other things. And so it is we find this coffin empty. Butbear with me. So far there is much that is strange. Wait you with meoutside, unseen and unheard, and things much stranger are yet to be.So"--here he shut the dark slide of his lantern--"now to the outside."He opened the door, and we filed out, he coming last and locking thedoor behind him.
Oh! but it seemed fresh and pure in the night air after the terrorof that vault. How sweet it was to see the clouds race by, and thebrief gleams of the moonlight between the scudding clouds crossing andpassing--like the gladness and sorrow of a man's life; how sweet itwas to breathe the fresh air, that had no taint of death and decay;how humanising to see the red lighting of the sky beyond the hill, andto hear far away the muffled roar that marks the life of a great city.Each in his own way was solemn and overcome. Arthur was silent, andwas, I could see, striving to grasp the purpose and the inner meaningof the mystery. I was myself tolerably patient, and half inclined againto throw aside doubt and to accept Van Helsing's conclusions. QuinceyMorris was phlegmatic in the way of a man who accepts all things, andaccepts them in the spirit of cool bravery, with hazard of all he hasto stake. Not being able to smoke, he cut himself a good-sized plugof tobacco and began to chew. As to Van Helsing, he was employed in adefinite way. First he took from his bag a mass of what looked likethin, wafer-like biscuit, which was carefully rolled up in a whitenapkin; next he took out a double-handful of some whitish stuff, likedough or putty. He crumbled the wafer up fine and worked it into themass between his hands. This he then took, and rolling it into thinstrips, began to lay them into the crevices between the door and itssetting in the tomb. I was somewhat puzzled at this, and being close,asked him what it was that he was doing. Arthur and Quincey drew nearalso, as they too were curious. He answered:--
"I am closing the tomb, so that the Un-Dead may not enter."
"And is that stuff you have put there going to do it?" asked Quincey."Great Scott! Is this a game?"