Dracula stood for some time with Mina at one side of the room, observing the images intently, as in the flick of an eyelash the gray wavering image of the wolf was succeeded by the silent onrush of a locomotive.
Impressed, Mina’s companion commented: “Astounding. There are no limits to science.”
“Is this science? I think it can hardly be compared with the work of Madame Curie.” The screen had been unable to hold Mina’s attention for more than a few seconds. She was becoming increasingly nervous. “I shouldn’t have come here. I must go…”
His finger on her lips commanded her to silence. Then, with a firm hand on her arm, he guided her toward the rear of the little theater, through a set of heavy curtains, across a shabby little hallway, into a dark area almost immediately behind the large suspended screen. All during their progress to this isolated place Mina attempted to pull back, to protest.
“No, I can’t—” To her own astonishment, she seemed unable to raise her voice above a whisper. “Please, stop this—who are you?”
When it seemed that Mina, throwing reserve and caution to the winds, might have cried out, Dracula’s gloved hand came up to gently cover her mouth.
His voice compelled. It almost hypnotized. “You are as safe with me as you will ever be.”
The gigantic black-and-white shadows of the images projected on the other side loomed over them. Here came Queen Victoria, first small and then enormous in a royal carriage, part of a silent procession celebrating Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee.
The audience, invisible on the front side of the screen, offered Her Majesty respectful applause.
Carefully Dracula let his companion go. Her eyes were closed, her lips moved, but almost silently. He realized that she was praying.
He whispered softly: “You are she, the love of my life. The one I have lost and found again.”
And even as he spoke the words, he felt the blood-lust, the raw hunger, rising, the fangs in his own jaw extending like erectile tissue—but not with Elisabeth! NO!
In dismay, astonishment at this spontaneous rebellion of his own nature, he turned his countenance away. Fiercely he exerted his will for a long moment. Before he turned back to his beloved, his face, his mouth were human once again.
Mina, though he felt sure she could not have seen the brief transformation, was trembling in fear. “My God—who are you?’
He, too, was quivering with emotion. “For you, I am only good.”
Frightened, bewitched, confused, she could only stare at him, not understanding. Not even beginning to understand.
And at that moment, fearful of discovery, afraid of her own nature, looking over the shoulder of the incredible, inexplicable man who held her, Mina Murray found herself gazing into the bright blue eyes of a real wolf.
There was a half-open door, a real and shabby wooden door, just behind the wolf, and with part of her mind Mina realized that this must be the escaped animal from the zoo, and that it must have made its way through the city by mews and alleys and byways, and come stalking into the rear of the theater through some door or window that had accidentally been left open.
Her escort had now become aware of what stood behind him. He let go of Mina and turned to look at the beast.
At that moment Mina, stricken by sudden panic, deprived of the support his hands and his gaze had given her, turned to run.
The wolf, more in fright than in ferocity, sprang after her.
Dracula’s voice, a whipcrack syllable or two in some tongue that Mina had never heard before, stopped the animal almost in midleap.
It cowered, almost whimpering, as if it not only understood but was somehow compelled to obey.
Meanwhile in the background the gigantic images continued their silent dance on the reversed screen, their lights and shadows flickering over the beast and the two people.
Dracula, calm and matter-of-fact, crouched and beckoned gently to the wolf. Head down, obedient, the animal came to him.
He cradled Berserker’s head in his white gloves, rubbing the beast’s ears, stroking its great back.
Then the man raised his eyes to those of his human companion. “Come here, Mina. I tell you to have no fear.”
Mina resisted at first, shaking her head wildly.
Dracula arose. Quietly he took her by the hand, pulling her easily and steadily to the wolf, which at her first approach put back its ears like a great cat. But then the animal relaxed.
Petting the wolf, safely, her fingers meeting those of her companion in the animal’s thick fur, she found herself intoxicated, enchanted, full of trust.
Two hours later, a hired coach deposited a shaken and transformed Mina at the front portico of Hillingham.
No words had been exchanged during the last five minutes of ride. As soon as her companion—her new lover—had helped her to alight, Mina, without allowing time for any speech, turned her back on man and coach and literally ran toward the house.
When she had almost reached the door, an irresistible impulse stopped her, and she turned back for one more yearning, agonizing look. But the coach and the man who had ridden in it with her were already gone.
The lights at Hillingham were once more burning into the morning hours. In one of the upstairs rooms of the huge house Dr. Seward was still keeping watch at Lucy’s bedside.
Seward took his patient’s pulse yet again, shook his head unhappily, and quietly left the sickroom to stretch his legs a little in the hall; to try to keep awake, and try to think.
At that moment a hired cab pulled up at the main entrance of Hillingham. The man who alighted from the vehicle was well into middle age, and of good stature, a figure of solid dignity. He was carrying a good-sized medical bag—after a hurried journey from Amsterdam across the Channel, he had left most of his luggage at the Berkeley Hotel in central London.
Having paid and dismissed his transportation, Abraham Van Helsing stood for a moment blinking, considering the great house as if its few lighted windows, all on upper floors, might be able to tell him something meaningful about its occupants.
With the departure of Dr. Seward from her room, Lucy was for the moment left quite alone.
But only for a moment. Somehow becoming aware of a silent, shadowy, and ominous presence hovering on the terrace, just outside the French doors, the young woman suddenly awakened. Gone was the extreme debility and weariness that Seward had noted in her sleeping countenance only a few minutes ago; now Lucy looked energetic, even joyful.
Her eyes brightened. Smiling wantonly at the entity that was only vaguely visible beyond the glass, she provocatively drew back the bedclothes.
Seward, alerted by a sleepy servant to the fact of Van Helsing’s arrival, came hurrying downstairs to find his old mentor just shedding his hat, gloves, and overcoat in the front hall.
The younger man, vastly relieved, almost ran forward, both hands extended in greeting. “Professor, how good of you to come!”
“I come to my friend in need when he calls!” And the visitor prolonged the handclasp, studying Seward carefully. In a moment Van Helsing’s own expression had become grave; he could see easily enough that social niceties and reminiscences had better be postponed.
Without preliminary he demanded: “Jack, tell me everything about your case.”
Running weary fingers through his hair, Seward tersely recited a preliminary list of Lucy’s symptoms and the tests he had already performed.
He concluded: “She has all the usual physical anemic signs. Her blood analyzes normal—and yet it is not. She manifests continued blood loss—but I cannot trace the cause.”
Van Helsing had barely started to frame his next question when a wild orgasmic wail sounded from upstairs.
The two men looked at each other in surprise, then wordlessly ran for the stairs. Seward was in the lead, with Van Helsing, still carrying his medical bag, puffing somewhat to keep up. Even as they went pounding up the stairs Lucy’s loud wanton moans continued, then broke off abruptly in a kind of climax.
Moments later the pair of physicians, Seward still leading the way, burst into her room.
Van Helsing, on entering, stopped in his tracks. “Gott in Himmel!”
The French window now stood open, the curtains blowing in the chill draft. Lucy, almost completely naked, lay sprawled on her back across the bed. A small pool of blood was caking on her pillow, and her bosom heaved as she struggled to draw breath.
Van Helsing moved immediately to the bedside, where he examined the patient’s body for a bleeding wound. He took note especially of the throat, from which the black choker she wore had now been removed. The professor drew up the bedclothes to cover the young woman decently and warmly.