I thought that the longer this went on the wilder he would get, and sowould bring on a fit; so I took him by the hand and raised him up.
"Come," I said sternly, "no more of this; we have had quite enoughalready. Get to your bed and try to behave more discreetly."
He suddenly stopped and looked at me intently for several moments.Then without a word he rose, and moving over, sat down on the side ofthe bed. The collapse had come, as on former occasions, just as I hadexpected.
When I was leaving the room, last of our party, he said to me in aquiet, well-bred voice:--
"You will, I trust, Dr. Seward, do me the justice to bear in mind, lateron, that I did what I could to convince you tonight."
/Jonathan Harker's Journal./
_1 October, 5 a.m._--I went with the party to the search with an easymind, for I think I never saw Mina so absolutely strong and well. I amso glad that she consented to hold back and let us men do the work.Somehow, it was a dread to me that she was in this fearful business atall; but now that her work is done, and that it is due to her energy andbrains and foresight that the whole story is put together in such a waythat every point tells, she may well feel that her part is finished, andthat she can henceforth leave the rest to us. We were, I think, all alittle upset by the scene with Mr. Renfield. When we came away from hisroom we were silent till we got back to the study. Then Mr. Morris saidto Dr. Seward:--
"Say, Jack, if that man wasn't attempting a bluff, he is about thesanest lunatic I ever saw. I'm not sure, but I believe that he had someserious purpose, and if he had, it was pretty rough on him not to get achance." Lord Godalming and I were silent, but Dr. Van Helsing added:--
"Friend John, you know more of lunatics than I do, and I'm glad of it,for I fear that if it had been to me to decide I would before that lasthysterical outburst have given him free. But we live and learn, and inour present task we must take no chance, as my friend Quincey would say.All is best as they are." Dr. Seward seemed to answer them both in adreamy kind of way:--
"I don't know but that I agree with you. If that man had been anordinary lunatic I would have taken my chance of trusting him; but heseems so mixed up with the Count in an indexy kind of way that I amafraid of doing anything wrong by helping his fads. I can't forget howhe prayed with almost equal fervour for a cat, and then tried to tearmy throat out with his teeth. Besides, he called the Count 'lord andmaster,' and he may want to get out to help him in some diabolical way.That horrid thing has the wolves and the rats and his own kind to helphim, so I suppose he isn't above trying to use a respectable lunatic.He certainly did seem earnest, though. I only hope we have done what isbest. These things, in conjunction with the wild work we have in hand,help to unnerve a man." The Professor stepped over, and laying a hand onhis shoulder, said in his grave, kindly way:--
"Friend John, have no fear. We are trying to do our duty in a very sadand terrible case; we can only do as we deem best. What else have we tohope for, except the pity of the good God?" Lord Godalming had slippedaway for a few minutes, but he now returned. He held up a little silverwhistle as he remarked:--
"That old place may be full of rats, and if so, I've got an antidote oncall." Having passed the wall, we took our way to the house, taking careto keep in the shadows of the trees on the lawn when the moonlight shoneout. When we got to the porch the Professor opened his bag and tookout a lot of things, which he laid on the step, sorting them into fourlittle groups, evidently one for each. Then he spoke:--
"My friends, we are going into a terrible danger, and we need arms ofmany kinds. Our enemy is not merely spiritual. Remember that he has thestrength of twenty men, and that, though our necks or our windpipes areof the common kind--and therefore breakable or crushable--his is notamenable to mere strength. A stronger man, or a body of men more strongin all than him, can at certain times hold him; but yet they cannot hurthim as we can be hurt by him. We must, therefore, guard ourselves fromhis touch. Keep this near your heart"--as he spoke he lifted a littlesilver crucifix and held it out to me, I being nearest to him--"putthese flowers round your neck"--here he handed to me a wreath ofwithered garlic blossoms--"for other enemies more mundane, this revolverand this knife; and for aid in all, these so small electric lamps, whichyou can fasten to your breast; and for all, and above all at the last,this, which we must not desecrate needless." This was a portion ofsacred wafer, which he put in an envelope and handed to me. Each of theothers was similarly equipped. "Now," he said, "friend John, where arethe skeleton keys? If so that we can open the door, we need not breakhouse by the window, as before at Miss Lucy's."
Dr. Seward tried one or two skeleton keys, his mechanical dexterity asa surgeon standing him in good stead. Presently he got one to suit;after a little play back and forward the bolt yielded, and, with a rustyclang, shot back. We pressed on the door, the rusty hinges creaked, andit slowly opened. It was startlingly like the image conveyed to me inDr. Seward's diary of the opening of Miss Westenra's tomb; I fancy thatthe same idea seemed to strike the others, for with one accord theyshrank back. The Professor was the first to move forward, and steppedinto the open door.
"_In manus tuas, Domine!_" he said, crossing himself as he passed overthe threshold. We closed the door behind us, lest when we should havelit our lamps we might possibly attract attention from the road. TheProfessor carefully tried the lock, lest we might not be able to open itfrom within should we be in a hurry to make our exit. Then we all litour lamps and proceeded on our search.
The light from the tiny lamps fell in all sorts of odd forms, as therays crossed each other, or the opacity of our bodies threw greatshadows. I could not for my life get away from the feeling that therewas some one else amongst us. I suppose it was the recollection, sopowerfully brought home to me by the grim surroundings, of that terribleexperience in Transylvania. I think the feeling was common to us all,for I noticed that the others kept looking over their shoulders at everysound and every new shadow, just as I felt myself doing.
The whole place was thick with dust. The floor was seemingly inchesdeep, except where there were recent footsteps, in which on holding downmy lamp I could see marks of hobnails where the dust was caked. Thewalls were fluffy and heavy with dust, and in the corners were masses ofspiders' webs, whereon the dust had gathered till they looked like oldtattered rags as the weight had torn them partly down. On a table in thehall was a great bunch of keys, with a time-yellowed label on each. Theyhad been used several times, for on the table were several similar rentsin the blanket of dust, like that exposed when the Professor lifted thekeys. He turned to me and said:----
"You know this place, Jonathan. You have copied maps of it, and youknow at least more than we do. Which is the way to the chapel?" I hadan idea of its direction, though on my former visit I had not beenable to get admission to it; so I led the way, and after a few wrongturnings found myself opposite a low, arched oaken door, ribbed withiron bands. "This is the spot," said the Professor, as he turned hislamp on a small map of the house, copied from the file of my originalcorrespondence regarding the purchase. With a little trouble we foundthe key on the bunch and opened the door. We were prepared for someunpleasantness, for as we were opening the door a faint, malodorous airseemed to exhale through the gaps, but none of us ever expected such anodour as we encountered. None of the others had met the Count at all atclose quarters, and when I had seen him he was either in the fastingstage of his existence in his rooms or, when he was bloated with freshblood, in a ruined building open to the air; but here the place wassmall and close, and the long disuse had made the air stagnant and foul.There was an earthy smell, as of some dry miasma, which came through thefouler air. But as to the odour itself, how shall I describe it? It wasnot alone that it was composed of all the ills of mortality and withthe pungent, acrid smell of blood, but it seemed as though corruptionhad become itself corrupt. Faugh! it sickens me to think of it. Everybreath exhaled by that monster seemed to have clung to the place andintensified its loathsomeness.
Under ordinary circumstances such a stench would have brought ourenterprise to an end; but this was no ordinary case, and the high andterrible purpose in which we were involved gave us a strength which roseabove merely physical considerations. After the involuntary shrinkingconsequent on the first nauseous whiff, we one and all set about ourwork as though that loathsome place were a garden of roses.
We made an accurate examination of the place, the Professor saying as webegan:----
"The first thing is to see how many of the boxes are left; we must thenexamine every hole and corner and cranny, and see if we cannot get someclue as to what has become of the rest." A glance was sufficient to showhow many remained
, for the great earth chests were bulky, and there wasno mistaking them.
There were only twenty-nine left out of the fifty! Once I got a fright,for, seeing Lord Godalming suddenly turn and look out of the vaulteddoor into the dark passage beyond, I looked too, and for an instant myheart stood still. Somewhere, looking out from the shadow, I seemed tosee the high lights of the Count's evil face, the ridge of the nose, thered eyes, the red lips, the awful pallor. It was only for a moment, foras Lord Godalming said, "I thought I saw a face, but it was only theshadows," and resumed his inquiry, I turned my lamp in the direction,and stepped into the passage. There was no sign of any one; and as therewere no corners, no doors, no aperture of any kind, but only the solidwalls of the passage, there could be no hiding-place even for _him_. Itook it that fear had helped imagination, and said nothing.
A few minutes later I saw Morris step suddenly back from a corner, whichhe was examining. We all followed his movements with our eyes, forundoubtedly some nervousness was growing on us, and we saw a whole massof phosphorescence, which twinkled like stars. We all instinctively drewback. The whole place was becoming alive with rats.
For a moment or two we stood appalled, all save Lord Godalming, who wasseemingly prepared for such an emergency. Rushing over to the greatiron-bound oaken door, which Dr. Seward had described from the outside,and which I had seen myself, he turned the key in the lock, drew thehuge bolts, and swung the door open. Then, taking his little silverwhistle from his pocket, he blew a low, shrill call. It was answeredfrom behind Dr. Seward's house by the yelping of dogs, and after abouta minute three terriers came dashing round the corner of the house.Unconsciously we had all moved towards the door, and as we moved Inoticed that the dust had been much disturbed: the boxes which had beentaken out had been brought this way. But even in the minute that hadelapsed the number of the rats had vastly increased. They seemed toswarm over the place all at once, till the lamplight, shining on theirmoving dark bodies and glittering, baleful eyes, made the place looklike a bank of earth set with fireflies. The dogs dashed on, but at thethreshold suddenly stopped and snarled, and then, simultaneously liftingtheir noses, began to howl in most lugubrious fashion. The rats weremultiplying in thousands, and moved out.
Lord Godalming lifted one of the dogs, and carrying him in, placed himon the floor. The instant his feet touched the ground he seemed torecover his courage, and rushed at his natural enemies. They fled beforehim so fast that before he had shaken the life out of a score, the otherdogs, who had by now been lifted in in the same manner, had but smallprey ere the whole mass had vanished.
With their going it seemed as if some evil presence had departed, forthe dogs frisked about and barked merrily as they made sudden darts attheir prostrate foes, and turned them over and over and tossed them inthe air with vicious shakes. We all seemed to find our spirits rise.Whether it was the purifying of the deadly atmosphere by the openingof the chapel door, or the relief which we experienced by findingourselves in the open, I know not; but most certainly the shadow ofdread seemed to slip from us like a robe, and the occasion of our cominglost something of its grim significance, though we did not slacken awhit in our resolution. We closed the outer door and barred and lockedit, and bringing the dogs with us, began our search of the house. Wefound nothing throughout except dust in extraordinary proportions, andall untouched save for my own footsteps when I had made my first visit.Never once did the dogs exhibit any symptom of uneasiness, and even whenwe returned to the chapel they frisked about as though they had beenrabbit-hunting in a summer wood.
The morning was quickening in the east when we emerged from the front.Dr. Van Helsing had taken the key of the hall-door from the bunch, andlocked the door in orthodox fashion, putting the key into his pocketwhen he had done.
"So far," he said, "our night has been eminently successful. No harmhas come to us such as I feared might be, and yet we have ascertainedhow many boxes are missing. More than all do I rejoice that this, ourfirst--and perhaps our most difficult and dangerous--step has beenaccomplished without the bringing thereinto our most sweet Madam Minaor troubling her waking or sleeping thoughts with sights and sounds andsmells of horror which she might never forget. One lesson, too, we havelearned, if it be allowable to argue _a particulari_: that the brutebeasts which are to the Count's command are yet themselves not amenableto his spiritual power; for look, these rats that would come to hiscall, just as from his castle top he summon the wolves to your going andto that poor mother's cry, though they come to him, they run pell-mellfrom the so little dogs of my friend Arthur. We have other mattersbefore us, other dangers, other fears; and that monster--he has not usedhis power over the brute world for the only or the last time to-night.So be it that he has gone elsewhere. Good! It has given us opportunityto cry 'check' in some way in this chess game, which we play for thestake of human souls. And now let us go home. The dawn is close at hand,and we have reason to be content with our first night's work. It may beordained that we have many nights and days to follow, if full of peril;but we must go on, and from no danger shall we shrink."