• Victoria Reeve

Dracula, Flipped: Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Letter, Max Harker to Leonard Westenra

Buda-Pesth, 24 August.

“My dearest Leonard,

“I know you will be anxious to hear all that has happened since we parted at the railway station at Whitby.

“Well, my dear, I got to Hull all right, and caught the boat to Hamburg, and then the train on here. I feel that I can hardly recall anything of the journey, except that I knew I was coming to Genevieve, and that as I should have to do some nursing, I had better get all the sleep I could. I found my dear one, oh, so thin and pale and weak-looking. All the resolution has gone out of her dear eyes, and that quiet dignity which I told you was in her face has vanished. She is only a wreck of herself, and she does not remember anything that has happened to her for a long time past. At least, she wants me to believe so, and I shall never ask.

“She has had some terrible shock, and I fear it might tax her poor brain if she were to try to recall it. Brother Aaron, who is a good creature and a born nurse, tells me that she wanted him to tell me what they were, but he would only cross himself, and say he would never tell. That the ravings of the sick were the secrets of God, and that if a nurse through his vocation should hear them, he should respect his trust.

“He is a sweet, good soul, and the next day, when he saw I was troubled, he opened up the subject my poor dear raved about, added, ‘I can tell you this much, my dear. That it was not about anything which she has done wrong herself, and you, as her husband to be, have no cause to be concerned. She has not forgotten you or what she owes to you. Her fear was of great and terrible things, which no mortal can treat of.’

“I do believe the dear soul thought I might be jealous lest my poor dear should have fallen in love with any other boy. The idea of my being jealous about Genevieve! And yet, my dear, let me whisper, I felt a thrill of joy through me when I knew that no other man was a cause for trouble. I am now sitting by her bedside, where I can see her face while she sleeps. She is waking!

“When she woke she asked me for her coat, as she wanted to get something from the pocket. I asked Brother Aaron, and he brought all her things. I saw amongst them was her notebook, and was going to ask her to let me look at it, for I knew that I might find some clue to her trouble, but I suppose she must have seen my wish in my eyes, for she sent me over to the window, saying she wanted to be quite alone for a moment.

“Then she called me back, and she said to me very solemnly, ‘Maximillian’, I knew then that she was in deadly earnest, for she has never called me by that name since she asked me to marry her, ‘You know, dear, my ideas of the trust between wife and husband. There should be no secret, no concealment. I have had a great shock, and when I try to think of what it is I feel my head spin round, and I do not know if it was real of the dreaming of a madwoman. You know I had brain fever, and that is to be mad. The secret is here, and I do not want to know it. I want to take up my life here, with our marriage.’ For, my dear, we had decided to be married as soon as the formalities are complete. ‘Are you willing, Maximillian, to share my ignorance? Here is the book. Take it and keep it, read it if you will, but never let me know unless, indeed, some solemn duty should come upon me to go back to the bitter hours, asleep or awake, sane or mad, recorded here.’ She fell back exhausted, and I put the book under her pillow, and kissed her. I have asked Brother Aaron to beg the Superior to let our wedding be this afternoon, and am waiting his reply . . . ”

“He has come and told me that the Chaplain of the English mission church has been sent for. We are to be married in an hour, or as soon after as Genevieve awakes.”

“Leonard, the time has come and gone. I feel very solemn, but very, very happy. Genevieve woke a little after the hour, and all was ready, and she sat up in bed, propped up with pillows. She answered her ‘I will’ firmly and strong. I could hardly speak. My heart was so full that even those words seemed to choke me.

“The dear brothers were so kind. Please, God, I shall never, never forget them, nor the grave and sweet responsibilities I have taken upon me. I must tell you of my wedding present. When the chaplain and the brothers had left me alone with my wife — oh, Leonard, it is the first time I have written the words ‘my wife— left me alone with my wife, I took the book from under her pillow, and wrapped it up in white paper, and tied it with a little bit of pale blue ribbon which was round my neck, and sealed it over the knot with sealing wax, and for my seal I used my wedding ring. Then I kissed it and showed it to my wife, and told her that I would keep it so, and then it would be an outward and visible sign for us all our lives that we trusted each other, that I would never open it unless it were for her own dear sake or for the sake of some stern duty. Then she took my hand in hers, and oh, Leonard, it was the first time she took her husband’s hand, and said that it was the dearest thing in all the wide world, and that she would go through all the past again to win it, if need be. The poor dear meant to have said a part of the past, but she cannot think of time yet, and I shall not wonder if at first she mixes up not only the month, but the year.

“Well, my dear, what could I say? I could only tell her that I was the happiest man in all the wide world, and that I had nothing to give her except myself, my life, and my trust, and that with these went my love and duty for all the days of my life. And, my dear, when she kissed me, and drew me to her with her poor weak hands, it was like a solemn pledge between us.

“Leonard dear, do you know why I tell you all this? It is not only because it is all sweet to me, but because you have been, and are, very dear to me. It was my privilege to be your friend and guide when you came from the schoolroom to prepare for the world of life. I want you to see now, and with the eyes of a very happy husband, whither duty has led me, so that in your own married life you too may be all happy, as I am. My dear, please Almighty God, your life may be all it promises, a long day of sunshine, with no harsh wind, no forgetting duty, no distrust. I must not wish you no pain, for that can never be, but I do hope you will be always as happy as I am now. Goodbye, my dear. I shall post this at once, and perhaps, write you very soon again. I must stop, for Genevieve is waking. I must attend my wife!

“Your ever-loving “Max Harker.”

Letter, Leonard Westenra to Max Harker.

Whitby, 30 August.

“My dearest Max,

“Oceans of love and millions of kisses, and may you soon be in your own home with your wife. I wish you were coming home soon enough to stay with us here. The strong air would soon restore Genevieve. It has quite restored me. I have an appetite like a cormorant, am full of life, and sleep well. You will be glad to know that I have quite given up walking in my sleep. I think I have not stirred out of my bed for a week, that is when I once got into it at night. Ann says I am getting fat. By the way, I forgot to tell you that Ann is here. We have such walks and drives, and rides, and rowing, and tennis, and fishing together, and I love her more than ever. She tells me that she loves me more, but I doubt that, for at first she told me that she couldn’t love me more than she did then. But this is nonsense. There she is, calling to me. So no more just at present from your loving,

“Leonard.

“P.S. — Father sends his love. He seems better, poor dear.

“P.P.S. — We are to be married on 28 September.”

Dr. Seward’s Diary

20 August. — The case of Renfield grows even more interesting. She has now so far quieted that there are spells of cessation from her passion. For the first week after her attack she was perpetually violent. Then one night, just as the moon rose, she grew quiet, and kept murmuring to herself. “Now I can wait. Now I can wait.”

The attendant came to tell me, so I ran down at once to have a look at her. She was still in the strait waistcoat and in the padded room, but the suffused look had gone from her face, and her eyes had something of their old pleading. I might almost say, cringing, softness. I was satisfied with her present condition, and directed her to be relieved. The attendants hesitated, but finally carried out my wishes without protest.

It was a strange thing that the patient had humour enough to see their distrust, for, coming close to me, she said in a whisper, all the while looking furtively at them, “They think I could hurt you! Fancy me hurting you! The fools!”

It was soothing, somehow, to the feelings to find myself disassociated even in the mind of this poor madwoman from the others, but all the same I do not follow her thought. Am I to take it that I have anything in common with her, so that we are, as it were, to stand together. Or has she to gain from me some good so stupendous that my well being is needful to Her? I must find out later on. Tonight she will not speak. Even the offer of a kitten or even a full-grown cat will not tempt her.

She will only say, “I don’t take any stock in cats. I have more to think of now, and I can wait. I can wait.”

After a while I left her. The attendant tells me that she was quiet until just before dawn, and that then she began to get uneasy, and at length violent, until at last she fell into a paroxysm which exhausted her so that she swooned into a sort of coma.

. . . Three nights has the same thing happened, violent all day then quiet from moonrise to sunrise. I wish I could get some clue to the cause. It would almost seem as if there was some influence which came and went. Happy thought! We shall tonight play sane wits against mad ones. She escaped before without our help. Tonight she shall escape with it. We shall give her a chance, and have the women ready to follow in case they are required.

23 August. —“The expected always happens.” How well Disraeli knew life. Our bird when she found the cage open would not fly, so all our subtle arrangements were for nought. At any rate, we have proved one thing, that the spells of quietness last a reasonable time. We shall in future be able to ease her bonds for a few hours each day. I have given orders to the night attendant merely to shut her in the padded room, when once she is quiet, until the hour before sunrise. The poor soul’s body will enjoy the relief even if her mind cannot appreciate it. Hark! The unexpected again! I am called. The patient has once more escaped.

Later. — Another night adventure. Renfield artfully waited until the attendant was entering the room to inspect. Then she dashed out past her and flew down the passage. I sent word for the attendants to follow. Again she went into the grounds of the deserted house, and we found her in the same place, pressed against the old chapel door. When she saw me she became furious, and had not the attendants seized her in time, she would have tried to kill me. As we were holding her a strange thing happened. She suddenly redoubled her efforts, and then as suddenly grew calm. I looked round instinctively, but could see nothing. Then I caught the patient’s eye and followed it, but could trace nothing as it looked into the moonlight sky, except a big bat, which was flapping its silent and ghostly way to the west. Bats usually wheel about, but this one seemed to go straight on, as if it knew where it was bound for or had some intention of its own.

The patient grew calmer every instant, and presently said, “You needn’t tie me. I shall go quietly!” Without trouble, we came back to the house. I feel there is something ominous in her calm, and shall not forget this night.

Leonard Westenra’s Diary

Hillingham, 24 August. — I must imitate Max, and keep writing things down. Then we can have long talks when we do meet. I wonder when it will be. I wish he were with me again, for I feel so unhappy. Last night I seemed to be dreaming again just as I was at Whitby. Perhaps it is the change of air, or getting home again. It is all dark and horrid to me, for I can remember nothing. But I am full of vague fear, and I feel so weak and worn out. When Ann came to lunch she looked quite grieved when she saw me, and I hadn’t the spirit to try to be cheerful. I wonder if I could sleep in father’s room tonight. I shall make an excuse to try.

25 August. — Another bad night. Father did not seem to take to my proposal. He seems not too well himself, and doubtless he fears to worry me. I tried to keep awake, and succeeded for a while, but when the clock struck twelve it waked me from a doze, so I must have been falling asleep. There was a sort of scratching or flapping at the window, but I did not mind it, and as I remember no more, I suppose I must have fallen asleep. More bad dreams. I wish I could remember them. This morning I am horribly weak. My face is ghastly pale, and my throat pains me. It must be something wrong with my lungs, for I don’t seem to be getting air enough. I shall try to cheer up when Ann comes, or else I know she will be miserable to see me so.

Letter, Ann to Dr. Seward

“Albemarle Hotel, 31 August “My dear Jane,

“I want you to do me a favour. Leonard is ill, that is he has no special disease, but he looks awful, and is getting worse every day. I have asked him if there is any cause, I not dare to ask his father, for to disturb the poor gentleman’s mind about his son in his present state of health would be fatal. Mr. Westenra has confided to me that his doom is spoken, disease of the heart, though poor Leonard does not know it yet. I am sure that there is something preying on my dear boy’s mind. I am almost distracted when I think of him. To look at him gives me a pang. I told him I should ask you to see him, and though he demurred at first, I know why, old girl, he finally consented. It will be a painful task for you, I know, old friend, but it is for his sake, and I must not hesitate to ask, or you to act. You are to come to lunch at Hillingham tomorrow, two o’clock, so as not to arouse any suspicion in Mrs. Westenra, and after lunch Leonard will take an opportunity of being alone with you. I am filled with anxiety, and want to consult with you alone as soon as I can after you have seen him. Do not fail!

“Ann.”

TELEGRAM, ANN HOLMWOOD TO SEWARD

1 SEPTEMBER

“AM SUMMONED TO SEE MY MOTHER, WHO IS WORSE. AM WRITING. WRITE ME FULLY BY TONIGHT’S POST TO RING. WIRE ME IF NECESSARY.”

Letter from Dr. Seward to Ann Holmwood

2 September

“My dear old girl,

“With regard to Mr. Westenra’s health I hasten to let you know at once that in my opinion there is not any functional disturbance or any malady that I know of. At the same time, I am not by any means satisfied with his appearance. He is woefully different from what he was when I saw him last. Of course you must bear in mind that I did not have full opportunity of examination such as I should wish. Our very friendship makes a little difficulty which not even medical science or custom can bridge over. I had better tell you exactly what happened, leaving you to draw, in a measure, your own conclusions. I shall then say what I have done and propose doing.

“I found Mr. Westenra in seemingly gay spirits. His father was present, and in a few seconds I made up my mind that he was trying all he knew to mislead his father and prevent him from being anxious. I have no doubt he guesses, if he does not know, what need of caution there is.

“We lunched alone, and as we all exerted ourselves to be cheerful, we got, as some kind of reward for our labours, some real cheerfulness amongst us. Then Mr. Westenra went to lie down, and Leonard was left with me. We went into his boudoir, and till we got there his gaiety remained, for the servants were coming and going.

“As soon as the door was closed, however, the mask fell from his face, and he sank down into a chair with a great sigh, and hid his eyes with his hand. When I saw that his high spirits had failed, I at once took advantage of his reaction to make a diagnosis.

“He said to me very sweetly, ‘I cannot tell you how I loathe talking about myself.’ I reminded him that a doctor’s confidence was sacred, but that you were grievously anxious about him. He caught on to my meaning at once, and settled that matter in a word. ‘Tell Ann everything you choose. I do not care for myself, but for her!’ So I am quite free.

“I could easily see that he was somewhat bloodless, but I could not see the usual anemic signs, and by the chance, I was able to test the actual quality of his blood, for in opening a window which was stiff a cord gave way, and he cut his hand slightly with broken glass. It was a slight matter in itself, but it gave me an evident chance, and I secured a few drops of the blood and have analysed them.

“The qualitative analysis give a quite normal condition, and shows, I should infer, in itself a vigorous state of health. In other physical matters I was quite satisfied that there is no need for anxiety, but as there must be a cause somewhere, I have come to the conclusion that it must be something mental.

“He complains of difficulty breathing satisfactorily at times, and of heavy, lethargic sleep, with dreams that frighten him, but regarding which he can remember nothing. He says that as a child, he used to walk in her sleep, and that when in Whitby the habit came back, and that once he walked out in the night and went to East Cliff, where Mr. Murray found him. But he assures me that of late the habit has not returned.

“I am in doubt, and so have done the best thing I know of. I have written to my old friend and teacher, Professor Van Helsing, of Amsterdam, who knows as much about obscure diseases as any one in the world. I have asked her to come over, and as you told me that all things were to be at your charge, I have mentioned to her who you are and your relations to Mr. Westenra. This, my dear girl, is in obedience to your wishes, for I am only too proud and happy to do anything I can for him.

“Van Helsing would, I know, do anything for me for a personal reason, so no matter on what ground she comes, we must accept her wishes. She is a seemingly arbitrary woman, this is because she knows what she is talking about better than any one else. She is a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of her day, and she has, I believe, an absolutely open mind. This, with an iron nerve, a temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution, self-command, and toleration exalted from virtues to blessings, and the kindliest and truest heart that beats, these form her equipment for the noble work that she is doing for humankind, work both in theory and practice, for her views are as wide as her all-embracing sympathy. I tell you these facts that you may know why I have such confidence in her. I have asked her to come at once. I shall see Mr. Westenra tomorrow again. He is to meet me at the Stores, so that I may not alarm his father by too early a repetition of my call.

“Yours always.”

Jane Seward

Letter, Abigail Van Helsing, Md, DPh, D. Lit, Etc, Etc, to Dr. Seward

2 September.

“My good Friend,

“When I received your letter I am already coming to you. By good fortune I can leave just at once, without wrong to any of those who have trusted me. Were fortune other, then it were bad for those who have trusted, for I come to my friend when she call me to aid those she holds dear. Tell your friend that when that time you suck from my wound so swiftly the poison of the gangrene from that knife that our other friend, too nervous, let slip, you did more for her when she wants my aids and you call for them than all her great fortune could do. But it is pleasure added to do for her, your friend, it is to you that I come. Have near at hand, and please it so arrange that we may see the young gentleman not too late on tomorrow, for it is likely that I may have to return here that night. But if need be I shall come again in three days, and stay longer if it must. Till then goodbye, my friend Jane.

“Van Helsing.”

Letter, Dr. Seward to Hon. Ann Holmwood

3 September

“My dear Ann,

“Van Helsing has come and gone. She came on with me to Hillingham, and found that, by Leonard’s discretion, his father was lunching out, so that we were alone with him.

“Van Helsing made a very careful examination of the patient. She is to report to me, and I shall advise you, for of course I was not present all the time. She is, I fear, much concerned, but says she must think. When I told her of our friendship and how you trust to me in the matter, she said, ‘You must tell her all you think. Tell her what I think, if you can guess it, if you will. Nay, I am not jesting. This is no jest, but life and death, perhaps more.’ I asked what she meant by that, for she was very serious. This was when we had come back to town, and she was having a cup of tea before starting on her return to Amsterdam. She would not give me any further clue. You must not be angry with me, Ann, because her very reticence means that all her brains are working for his good. She will speak plainly enough when the time comes, be sure. So I told her I would simply write an account of our visit, just as if I were doing a descriptive special article for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH. She seemed not to notice, but remarked that the smuts of London were not quite so bad as they used to be when she was a student here. I am to get her report tomorrow if she can possibly make it. In any case I am to have a letter.

“Well, as to the visit, Leonard was more cheerful than on the day I first saw him, and certainly looked better. He had lost something of the ghastly look that so upset you, and his breathing was normal. He was very sweet to the Professor (as he always is), and tried to make her feel at ease, though I could see the poor boy was making a hard struggle for it.

“I believe Van Helsing saw it, too, for I saw the quick look under her brows that I knew of old. Then she began to chat of all things except ourselves and diseases and with such an infinite geniality that I could see poor Leonard’s pretense of animation merge into reality. Then, without any seeming change, she brought the conversation gently round to her visit, and suavely said,

“‘My dear young sir, I have the so great pleasure because you are so much beloved. That is much, my dear, even were there that which I do not see. They told me you were down in the spirit, and that you were of a ghastly pale. To them I say “Pouf!”’ And she snapped her fingers at me and went on. ‘But you and I shall show them how wrong they are. How can she’, and she pointed at me with the same look and gesture as that with which she pointed me out in her class, on, or rather after, a particular occasion which she never fails to remind me of, ‘know anything of a young gentlemen? She has her madwomen to play with, and to bring them back to happiness, and to those that love them. It is much to do, and, oh, but there are rewards in that we can bestow such happiness. But the young gentlemen! She has no husband nor son, and the young do not tell themselves to the young, but to the old, like me, who have known so many sorrows and the causes of them. So, my dear, we will send her away to smoke the cigarette in the garden, whiles you and I have little talk all to ourselves.’ I took the hint, and strolled about, and presently the professor came to the window and called me in. She looked grave, but said, ‘I have made careful examination, but there is no functional cause. With you I agree that there has been much blood lost, it has been but is not. But the conditions of him are in no way anemic. I have asked him to send me his manservant, that I may ask just one or two questions, that so I may not chance to miss nothing. I know well what he will say. And yet there is cause. There is always cause for everything. I must go back home and think. You must send me the telegram every day, and if there be cause I shall come again. The disease, for not to be well is a disease, interest me, and the sweet, young dear, he interest me too. He charm me, and for him, if not for you or disease, I come.’

“As I tell you, she would not say a word more, even when we were alone. And so now, Ann, you know all I know. I shall keep stern watch. I trust your poor mother is rallying. It must be a terrible thing to you, my dear old girl, to be placed in such a position between two people who are both so dear to you. I know your idea of duty to your mother, and you are right to stick to it. But if need be, I shall send you word to come at once to Leonard, so do not be over-anxious unless you hear from me.”

Dr. Seward’s Diary

4 September. — Zoophagous patient still keeps up our interest in her. She had only one outburst and that was yesterday at an unusual time. Just before the stroke of noon she began to grow restless. The attendant knew the symptoms, and at once summoned aid. Fortunately the women came at a run, and were just in time, for at the stroke of noon she became so violent that it took all their strength to hold her. In about five minutes, however, she began to get more quiet, and finally sank into a sort of melancholy, in which state she has remained up to now. The attendant tells me that her screams whilst in the paroxysm were really appalling. I found my hands full when I got in, attending to some of the other patients who were frightened by her. Indeed, I can quite understand the effect, for the sounds disturbed even me, though I was some distance away. It is now after the dinner hour of the asylum, and as yet my patient sits in a corner brooding, with a dull, sullen, woe-begone look in her face, which seems rather to indicate than to show something directly. I cannot quite understand it.

Later. — Another change in my patient. At five o’clock I looked in on her, and found her seemingly as happy and contented as she used to be. She was catching flies and eating them, and was keeping note of her capture by making nailmarks on the edge of the door between the ridges of padding. When she saw me, she came over and apologized for her bad conduct, and asked me in a very humble, cringing way to be led back to her own room, and to have her notebook again. I thought it well to humour her, so she is back in her room with the window open. She has the sugar of her tea spread out on the window sill, and is reaping quite a harvest of flies. She is not now eating them, but putting them into a box, as of old, and is already examining the corners of her room to find a spider. I tried to get her to talk about the past few days, for any clue to her thoughts would be of immense help to me, but she would not rise. For a moment or two she looked very sad, and said in a sort of far away voice, as though saying it rather to herself than to me.

“All over! All over! She has deserted me. No hope for me now unless I do it myself!” Then suddenly turning to me in a resolute way, she said, “Doctor, won’t you be very good to me and let me have a little more sugar? I think it would be very good for me.”

“And the flies?” I said.

“Yes! The flies like it, too, and I like the flies, therefore I like it.” And there are people who know so little as to think that madwomen do not argue. I procured her a double supply, and left her as happy a woman as, I suppose, any in the world. I wish I could fathom her mind.

Midnight. — Another change in her. I had been to see Mr. Westenra, whom I found much better, and had just returned, and was standing at our own gate looking at the sunset, when once more I heard her yelling. As her room is on this side of the house, I could hear it better than in the morning. It was a shock to me to turn from the wonderful smoky beauty of a sunset over London, with its lurid lights and inky shadows and all the marvellous tints that come on foul clouds even as on foul water, and to realize all the grim sternness of my own cold stone building, with its wealth of breathing misery, and my own desolate heart to endure it all. I reached him just as the sun was going down, and from her window saw the red disc sink. As it sank she became less and less frenzied, and just as it dipped she slid from the hands that held her, an inert mass, on the floor. It is wonderful, however, what intellectual recuperative power lunatics have, for within a few minutes she stood up quite calmly and looked around her. I signalled to the attendants not to hold her, for I was anxious to see what she would do. She went straight over to the window and brushed out the crumbs of sugar. Then she took her fly box, and emptied it outside, and threw away the box. Then she shut the window, and crossing over, sat down on her bed. All this surprised me, so I asked her, “Are you going to keep flies any more?”

“No,” said she. “I am sick of all that rubbish!” She certainly is a wonderfully interesting study. I wish I could get some glimpse of her mind or of the cause of her sudden passion. Stop. There may be a clue after all, if we can find why today her paroxysms came on at high noon and at sunset. Can it be that there is a malign influence of the sun at periods which affects certain natures, as at times the moon does others? We shall see.

TELEGRAM. SEWARD, LONDON, TO VAN HELSING, AMSTERDAM

“4 SEPTEMBER. — PATIENT STILL BETTER TODAY.”

TELEGRAM. SEWARD, LONDON, TO VAN HELSING, AMSTERDAM

“5 SEPTEMBER. — PATIENT GREATLY IMPROVED. GOOD APPETITE, SLEEPS NATURALLY, GOOD SPIRITS, COLOUR COMING BACK.”

TELEGRAM. SEWARD, LONDON, TO VAN HELSING, AMSTERDAM

“6 SEPTEMBER. — TERRIBLE CHANGE FOR THE WORSE. COME AT ONCE. DO NOT LOSE AN HOUR. I HOLD OVER TELEGRAM TO HOLMWOOD TILL HAVE SEEN YOU.”

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