"Go on," said Arthur hoarsely. "Tell me what I am to do."
"Take this stake in your left hand, ready to place the point over theheart, and the hammer in your right. Then when we begin our prayer forthe dead--I shall read him, I have here the book, and the others shallfollow--strike in God's name, that so all may be well with the dead thatwe love, and that the Un-Dead pass away."
Arthur took the stake and the hammer, and when once his mind was set onaction his hands never trembled nor even quivered. Van Helsing openedhis missal and began to read, and Quincey and I followed as well as wecould. Arthur placed the point over the heart, and as I looked I couldsee its dint in the white flesh. Then he struck with all his might.
The Thing in the coffin writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling screechcame from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twistedin wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till thelips were cut and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthurnever faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling armrose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilstthe blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it. Hisface was set, and high duty seemed to shine through it; the sight of itgave us courage, so that our voices seemed to ring through the littlevault.
And then the writhing and quivering of the body became less, and theteeth ceased to champ, and the face to quiver. Finally it lay still. Theterrible task was over.
The hammer fell from Arthur's hand. He reeled and would have fallen hadwe not caught him. Great drops of sweat sprang out on his forehead, andhis breath came in broken gasps. It had indeed been an awful strainon him; and had he not been forced to his task by more than humanconsiderations he could never have gone through with it. For a fewminutes we were so taken up with him that we did not look towards thecoffin. When we did, however, a murmur of startled surprise ran from oneto the other of us. We gazed so eagerly that Arthur rose, for he hadbeen seated on the ground, and came and looked too; and then a glad,strange light broke over his face and dispelled altogether the gloom ofhorror that lay upon it.
There in the coffin lay no longer the foul Thing that we had so dreadedand grown to hate that the work of her destruction was yielded as aprivilege to the one best entitled to it, but Lucy as we had seen her inher life, with her face of unequalled sweetness and purity. True thatthere was there, as we had seen them in life, the traces of care andpain and waste; but these were all dear to us, for they marked her truthto what we knew. One and all we felt that the holy calm that lay likesunshine over the wasted face and form was only an earthly token andsymbol of the calm that was to reign for ever.
Van Helsing came and laid his hand on Arthur's shoulder, and said tohim:--
"And now, Arthur, my friend, dear lad, am I not forgiven?"
The reaction of the terrible strain came as he took the old man's handin his, and raising it to his lips, pressed it, and said:--
"Forgiven! God bless you that you have given my dear one her soul again,and me peace." He put his hands on the Professor's shoulder, and layinghis head on his breast, cried for a while silently, whilst we stoodunmoving. When he raised his head Van Helsing said to him:--
"And now, my child, you may kiss her. Kiss her dead lips if you will, asshe would have you to, if for her to choose. For she is not a grinningdevil now--not any more a foul Thing for all eternity. No longer she isthe devil's Un-Dead. She is God's true dead, whose soul is with Him!"
Arthur bent and kissed her, and then we sent him and Quincey out of thetomb; the Professor and I sawed the top off the stake, leaving the pointof it in the body. Then we cut off the head and filled the mouth withgarlic. We soldered up the leaden coffin, screwed on the coffin-lid, andgathering up our belongings, came away. When the Professor locked thedoor he gave the key to Arthur.
Outside the air was sweet, the sun shone, and the birds sang, and itseemed as if all nature were tuned to a different pitch. There wasgladness and mirth and peace everywhere, for we were at rest ourselveson one account, and we were glad, though it was with a tempered joy.
Before we moved away Van Helsing said:--
"Now, my friends, one step of our work is done, one the most harrowingto ourselves. But there remains a greater task: to find out the authorof all this our sorrow and to stamp him out. I have clues which we canfollow; but it is a long task, and a difficult, and there is danger init, and pain. Shall you not all help me? We have learned to believe, allof us--is it not so? And since so, do we not see our duty? Yes! And dowe not promise to go on to the bitter end?"
Each in turn, we took his hand, and the promise was made. Then said theProfessor as we moved off:--
"Two nights hence you shall meet with me and dine together at seven ofthe clock with friend John. I shall entreat two others, two that youknow not as yet; and I shall be ready to all our work show and our plansunfold. Friend John, you come with me home, for I have much to consultabout, and you can help me. To-night I leave for Amsterdam, but shallreturn to-morrow night. And then begins our great quest. But firstI shall have much to say, so that you may know what is to do and todread. Then our promise shall be made to each other anew; for there isa terrible task before us, and once our feet are on the ploughshare, wemust not draw back."
/Dr. Seward's Diary/--_continued._
When we arrived at the Berkeley Hotel, Van Helsing found a telegramwaiting for him:--
"Am coming up by train. Jonathan at Whitby. Important news.--/MinaHarker./"
The Professor was delighted. "Ah, that wonderful Madam Mina," he said,"pearl among women! She arrive, but I cannot stay. She must go to yourhouse, friend John. You must meet her at the station. Telegraph her _enroute_, so that she may be prepared."
When the wire was despatched he had a cup of tea; over it he told me ofa diary kept by Jonathan Harker when abroad, and gave me a typewrittencopy of it, as also of Mrs. Harker's diary at Whitby. "Take these," hesaid, "and study them well. When I have returned you will be master ofall the facts, and we can then better enter on our inquisition. Keepthem safe, for there is in them much of treasure. You will need allyour faith, even you who have had such an experience as that of to-day.What is here told," he laid his hand heavily and gravely on the packetof papers as he spoke, "may be the beginning of the end to you and meand many another; or it may sound the knell of the Un-Dead who walkthe earth. Read all, I pray you, with the open mind; and if you canadd in any way to the story here told do so, for it is all-important.You have kept diary of all these so strange things; is it not so? Yes!Then we shall go through all these together when that we meet." He thenmade ready for his departure, and shortly after drove off to LiverpoolStreet. I took my way to Paddington, where I arrived about fifteenminutes before the train came in.
The crowd melted away after the bustling fashion common to arrivalplatforms; and I was beginning to feel uneasy, lest I might miss myguest, when a sweet-faced, dainty-looking girl stepped up to me, and,after a quick glance, said: "Dr. Seward, is it not?"
"And you are Mrs. Harker!" I answered at once; whereupon she held outher hand.
"I knew you from the description of poor dear Lucy; but----" She stoppedsuddenly, and a quick blush overspread her face.
The blush that rose to my own cheeks somehow set us both at ease, forit was a tacit answer to her own. I got her luggage, which included atypewriter, and we took the Underground to Fenchurch Street, after Ihad sent a wire to my housekeeper to have a sitting-room and bedroomprepared at once for Mrs. Harker.
In due time we arrived. She knew, of course, that the place was alunatic asylum, but I could see that she was unable to repress a slightshudder when we entered.
She told me that, if she might, she would come presently to my study, asshe had much to say. So here I am finishing my entry in my phonographdiary whilst I await her. As yet I have not had the chance of lookingat the papers which Van Helsing left with me, though they lie openbefore me. I must get her interested in something, so that I may have anopportunity of reading them. She does not know how precious time is, orwhat a task we have in hand. I must be careful not to frighten her. Hereshe is!