"No, I shall not forget, for it is well that I remember; and with itI have so much in memory of you that is sweet, that I take it alltogether. Now, you must all be going soon. Breakfast is ready, and wemust all eat that we may be strong."
Breakfast was a strange meal to us all. We tried to be cheerful andencourage each other, and Mina was the brightest and most cheerful ofus. When it was over, Van Helsing stood up and said:--
"Now, my dear friends, we go forth to our terrible enterprise. Are weall armed, as we were on that night when first we visited our enemy'slair; armed against ghostly as well as carnal attack?" We all assuredhim. "Then it is well. Now, Madam Mina, you are in any case _quite_ safehere until the sunset; and before then we shall return--if--we shallreturn! But before we go let me see you armed against personal attack. Ihave myself, since you came down, prepared your chamber by the placingof the things of which we know, so that He may not enter. Now let meguard yourself. On your forehead I touch this piece of Sacred Wafer inthe name of the Father, the Son, and----"
There was a fearful scream which almost froze our hearts to hear. As heplaced the Wafer on Mina's forehead, it had seared it--had burned intothe flesh as though it had been a piece o
f white-hot metal. My poordarling's brain told her the significance of the fact as quickly as hernerves received the pain of it; and the two so overwhelmed her that heroverwrought nature had its voice in that dreadful scream. But the wordsto her thought came quickly; the echo of the scream had not ceased toring on the air when there came the reaction, and she sank on her kneeson the floor in an agony of abasement. Pulling her beautiful hair overher face, as the leper of old his mantle, she wailed out:--
"Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh! I mustbear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgment Day." Theyall paused. I had thrown myself beside her in an agony of helplessgrief, and putting my arms around held her tight. For a few minutes oursorrowful hearts beat together, whilst the friends around us turned awaytheir eyes that ran tears silently. Then Van Helsing turned and saidgravely; so gravely that I could not help feeling that he was in someway inspired and was stating things outside himself:--
"It may be that you may have to bear that mark till God Himself see fit,as He most surely shall, on the Judgment Day to redress all wrongs ofthe earth and of His children that He has placed thereon. And oh, MadamMina, my dear, my dear, may we who love you be there to see, when thatred scar, the sign of God's knowledge of what has been, shall pass awayand leave your forehead as pure as the heart we know. For so surely aswe live, that scar shall pass away when God see right to lift the burdenthat is hard upon us. Till then we bear our Cross, as His Son did inobedience to His will. It may be that we are chosen instruments of Hisgood pleasure, and that we ascend to His bidding as that other throughstripes and shame; through tears and blood; through doubts and fears,and all that makes the difference between God and man."
There was hope in his words, and comfort; and they made for resignation.Mina and I both felt so, and simultaneously we each took one of the oldman's hands and bent over and kissed it. Then without a word we allknelt down together, and, all holding hands, swore to be true to eachother. We men pledged ourselves to raise the veil of sorrow from thehead of her whom, each in his own way, we loved; and we prayed for helpand guidance in the terrible task which lay before us.
It was then time to start. So I said farewell to Mina, a parting whichneither of us shall forget to our dying day; and we set out.
To one thing I have made up my mind: if we find out that Mina must bea vampire in the end, then she shall not go into that unknown andterrible land alone. I suppose it is thus that in old times one vampiremeant many; just as their hideous bodies could only rest in sacredearth, so the holiest love was the recruiting sergeant for their ghastlyranks.
We entered Carfax without trouble and found all things the same as onthe first occasion. It was hard to believe that amongst so prosaicsurroundings of neglect and dust and decay there was any ground for suchfear as we already knew. Had not our minds been made up, and had therenot been terrible memories to spur us on, we could hardly have proceededwith our task. We found no papers, nor any sign of use in the house; andin the old chapel the great boxes looked just as we had seen them last.Dr. Van Helsing said to us solemnly as we stood before them:--
"And now, my friends, we have a duty here to do. We must sterilisethis earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a fardistant land for such fell use. He has chosen this earth because it hasbeen holy. Thus we defeat him with his own weapon, for we make it moreholy still. It was sanctified to such use of man, now we sanctify it toGod." As he spoke he took from his bag a screw-driver and a wrench, andvery soon the top of one of the cases was thrown open. The earth smelledmusty and close; but we did not somehow seem to mind, for our attentionwas concentrated on the Professor. Taking from his box a piece of theSacred Wafer he laid it reverently on the earth, and then shutting downthe lid began to screw it home, we aiding him as he worked.
One by one we treated in the same way each of the great boxes, and leftthem as we had found them to all appearance; but in each was a portionof the Host.
When we closed the door behind us, the Professor said solemnly:--
"So much is already done. If it may be that with all the others we canbe so successful, then the sunset of this evening may shine on MadamMina's forehead all white as ivory and with no stain!"
As we passed across the lawn on our way to the station to catch ourtrain we could see the front of the asylum. I looked eagerly, and in thewindow of my room saw Mina. I waved my hand to her, and nodded to tellthat our work there was successfully accomplished. She nodded in replyto show that she understood. The last I saw, she was waving her hand infarewell. It was with a heavy heart that we sought the station and justcaught the train, which was steaming in as we reached the platform.
I have written this in the train.
_Piccadilly, 12.30 o'clock._--Just before we reached Fenchurch StreetLord Godalming said to me:
"Quincey and I will find a locksmith. You had better not come with usin case there should be any difficulty; for under the circumstances itwouldn't seem so bad for us to break into an empty house. But you area solicitor, and the Incorporated Law Society might tell you that youshould have known better." I demurred as to my not sharing any dangereven of odium, but he went on: "Besides, it will attract less attentionif there are not too many of us. My title will make it all right withthe locksmith, and with any policeman that may come along. You hadbetter go with Jack and the Professor and stay in the Green Park,somewhere in sight of the house; and when you see the door open and thesmith has gone away, do you all come across. We shall be on the look outfor you, and will let you in."
"The advice is good!" said Van Helsing, so we said no more. Godalmingand Morris hurried off in a cab, we following in another. At the cornerof Arlington Street our contingent got out and strolled into the GreenPark. My heart beat as I saw the house on which so much of our hope wascentred, looming up grim and silent in its deserted condition amongstits more lively and spruce-looking neighbours. We sat down on a benchwithin good view, and began to smoke cigars so as to attract as littleattention as possible. The minutes seemed to pass with leaden feet as wewaited for the coming of the others.
At length we saw a four-wheeler drive up. Out of it, in leisurelyfashion, got Lord Godalming and Morris; and down from the box descendeda thick-set working man with his rush-woven basket of tools. Morrispaid the cabman, who touched his hat and drove away. Together the twoascended the steps, and Lord Godalming pointed out what he wanted done.The workman took off his coat leisurely and hung it on one of the spikesof the rail, saying something to a policeman who just then saunteredalong. The policeman nodded acquiescence, and the man kneeling downplaced his bag beside him. After searching through it, he took out aselection of tools which he proceeded to lay beside him in orderlyfashion. Then he stood up, looked into the keyhole, blew into it, andturning to his employers, made some remark. Lord Godalming smiled, andthe man lifted a good-sized bunch of keys; selecting one of them, hebegan to probe the lock, as if feeling his way with it. After fumblingabout for a bit he tried a second, and then a third. All at once thedoor opened under a slight push from him, and he and the two othersentered the hall. We sat still; my own cigar burnt furiously, but VanHelsing's went cold altogether. We waited patiently as we saw theworkman come out and take in his bag. Then he held the door partly open,steading it with his knees, whilst he fitted a key to the lock. This hefinally handed to Lord Godalming, who took out his purse and gave himsomething. The man touched his hat, took his bag, put on his coat anddeparted; not a soul took the slightest notice of the whole transaction.
When the man had fairly gone, we three crossed the street and knocked atthe door. It was immediately opened by Quincey Morris, beside whom stoodLord Godalming lighting a cigar.
"The place smells so vilely," said the latter as we came in. It didindeed smell vilely--like the old chapel at Carfax--and with ourprevious experience it was plain to us that the Count had been usingthe place pretty freely. We moved to explore the house, all keepingtogether in case of attack; for we knew we had a strong and wil
y enemyto deal with, and as yet we did not know whether the Count might not bein the house. In the dining-room, which lay at the back of the hall,we found eight boxes of earth. Eight boxes only out of the nine whichwe sought! Our work was not over, and would never be until we shouldhave found the missing box. First we opened the shutters of the windowwhich looked out across a narrow stone-flagged yard at the blank faceof a stable, pointed to look like the front of a miniature house. Therewere no windows in it, so we were not afraid of being overlooked. We didnot lose any time in examining the chests. With the tools which we hadbrought with us we opened them, one by one, and treated them as we hadtreated those others in the chapel. It was evident to us that the Countwas not at present in the house, and we proceeded to search for any ofhis effects.
After a cursory glance at the rest of the rooms from basement to attic,we came to the conclusion that the dining-room contained any effectswhich might belong to the Count; and so we proceeded to minutely examinethem. They lay in a sort of orderly disorder on the great dining-roomtable. There were title-deeds of the Piccadilly house in a greatbundle; deeds of the purchase of the houses at Mile End and Bermondsey;notepaper, envelopes, and pens and ink. All were covered up in thinwrapping paper to keep them from the dust. There were also a clothesbrush, a brush and comb, and a jug and basin--the latter containingdirty water which was reddened as if with blood. Last of all was alittle heap of keys of all sorts and sizes, probably those belonging tothe other houses. When we had examined this last find, Lord Godalmingand Quincey Morris, taking accurate notes of the various addresses ofthe houses in the East and the South, took with them the keys in a greatbunch, and set out to destroy the boxes in these places. The rest of usare, with what patience we can, awaiting their return--or the coming ofthe Count.
/Dr. Seward's Diary./
_3 October._--The time seemed terribly long whilst we were waiting forthe coming of Godalming and Quincey Morris. The Professor tried to keepour minds active by using them all the time. I could see his beneficentpurpose, by the side glances which he threw from time to time at Harker.The poor fellow is overwhelmed in a misery that is appalling to see.Last night he was a frank, happy-looking man, with strong youthful face,full of energy, and with dark brown hair. To-day he is a drawn, haggardold man, whose white hair matches well with the hollow burning eyes andgrief-written lines of his face. His energy is still intact; in fact heis like a living flame. This may yet be his salvation, for, if all gowell, it will tide him over the despairing period; he will then, in akind of way, wake again to the realities of life. Poor fellow, I thoughtmy own trouble was bad enough, but his----! The Professor knows thiswell enough, and is doing his best to keep his mind active. What he hasbeen saying was, under the circumstances, of absorbing interest. As wellas I can remember, here it is:--
"I have studied, over and over again since they came into my hands,all the papers relating to this monster; and the more I have studied,the greater seems the necessity to utterly stamp him out. All throughthere are signs of his advance; not only of his power, but of hisknowledge of it. As I learned from the researches of my friend Arminiusof Buda-Pesth, he was in life a most wonderful man. Soldier, statesman,and alchemist--which latter was the highest development of thescience-knowledge of his time. He had a mighty brain, a learning beyondcompare, and a heart that knew no fear and no remorse. He dared evento attend the Scholomance, and there was no branch of knowledge of histime that he did not essay. Well, in him the brain powers survived thephysical death; though it would seem that memory was not all complete.In some faculties of mind he has been, and is, only a child; but he isgrowing, and some things that were childish at the first are now ofman's stature. He is experimenting, and doing it well; and if it had notbeen that we have crossed his path he would be yet--he may be yet if wefail--the father or furtherer of a new order of beings, whose road mustlead through Death, not Life."
Harker groaned and said: "And this is all arrayed against my darling!But how is he experimenting? The knowledge may help us to defeat him!"