Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Fred Saberhagen & James V. Heart

Then he turned to confront Seward, even as the younger man came back from closing the door to the terrace, making sure that it was latched securely and drawing the curtains back into place across it.

“There is no time to be lost,” Van Helsing informed his colleague firmly. He looked as grimly determined as Seward had ever seen him. “There must be transfusion of blood at once.”

Even as he spoke the professor was opening his medical bag, which he had already set down on the bed.

Seward, lighting one of several candles that were standing ready at the bedside, looked up, surprised at this proposal. “Transfusion? You’ve perfected the procedure?”

“Perfected?” Van Helsing shook his head. “No one has done that yet. I’ve only experimented, using Landsteiner’s method. It is true that the risk is very great, but we have no choice. This woman will die tonight if we do nothing.”

Belatedly commotion was building out in the hall. Alarm had spread among the servants, and a pair of maids carrying lamps now put their frightened faces into the bedroom.

Swiftly Seward issued orders to the servants and sent them away with the additional warning not to awaken Lucy’s mother. Meanwhile Van Helsing was pulling from his bag the implements required to perform the contemplated operation—some lengths of rubber tubing, so thin-walled as to be practically transparent; two heavy needles, some auxiliary equipment, including a small hand-operated pump.

The younger doctor, busily arranging a chair, tables, and lamps about the bed, observed this activity with continued surprise.

“You came prepared to perform a transfusion, Professor?”

His mentor nodded grimly. “Ja. From what you told me in your cable, I suspected. Now the need is certain.”

New footsteps, these heavier and almost running, sounded in the hall. In another moment Arthur Holmwood, in his hat and topcoat, had appeared at the door of Lucy’s bedroom.

Arthur—who, as Seward realized, must have just come from the bedside of his dying father, Lord God-aiming—took in the scene with shock and wonder. Lucy’s betrothed stared without understanding at the two men in her room. He took in the pale, slight figure in the bed, the already bloodstained sheets and pillow. The multiple strains on Arthur’s nerves threatened to overcome him.

“What the bloody hell?” Holmwood grated, pushing forward. “What are you doing to my Lucy?”

Seward hastily intervened. “Art, this is Van Helsing, the specialist. He’s trying to save her, old chap.” Quickly he performed a more formal introduction.

Van Helsing, fully occupied with the medical struggle he was about to undertake, only glanced up, nodding instead of offering to shake hands. His face looked grim and tough.

“Ah, the fiancé”,” he grunted. “You’ve come in good time. This young lady is very ill. She wants blood, and blood she must have. Take off your coat.” Arthur barely hesitated, but even an instant’s delay was too much for Van Helsing. He barked again: “Take off your coat!”

The overcoat and hat came off at once. Holmwood was shaken now, apologetic. “Forgive me, sir. My life is hers. I would give my last drop of blood to save her.”

Van Helsing showed his teeth in a kind of smile. “I do not ask as much as that—yet. But come! You are a man, and it is a man we want.” With a fierce gesture he pointed to the chair at the bedside.

“Jack was to give his blood”—this was news to Seward, who looked up sharply; the younger doctor had not yet begun to consider by what process a donor might be chosen—”as he is more young and strong than me. But now you are here, you are better than us, who toil in the world of thought. Our nerves are not so calm and our blood not so bright than yours!”

Obviously, Seward observed admiringly, the professor had been profoundly energized, elated by this post-midnight challenge, coming after what must have been a tiring trip across the Channel. He was proceeding with his preparations, now holding up the two large, sharp, hollow needles, one in each hand, connected by an apparatus of rubber tubing and the bulb pump.

His chuckle had something sadistic in it.

Seward, meanwhile, had stripped the bewildered Holmwood of his inner coat, ripped up his shirt sleeve, sat him down in the chair at bedside, tied off his arm, and thumped up a vein.

Now, swiftly but with absolute method, Van Helsing performed the operation.

As he inserted the large needle into Lucy’s arm, she quivered with brief pain, but remained unconscious. Holmwood winced perceptibly at that, and again when his own arm was stabbed. Then he sat back quietly in his chair, holding the needle and tube in place with his free hand as the professor directed him. Arthur’s anxious gaze seldom strayed from Lucy’s face.

As minutes passed, and the rubber tubes carried their warm liquid burden, with the physicians now and then exchanging terse syllables of jargon regarding the transfusion’s progress, something like life began to come back to Lucy’s cheeks. The improvement was tentative and delicate at first, then more robust.

When he had observed this result until the reality of it could not be doubted, Van Helsing seemed to relax a little.

Presently, leaving the immediate supervision of the operation to Seward, the old man rummaged in his medical bag again, this time bringing out something Seward would have thought much less likely even than transfusion equipment: Van Helsing’s hand emerged from the bag with a great handful of white flowers.

These, to the wonder of Seward and Holmwood, he arranged in a vase at Lucy’s bedside, casually discarding the ordinary garden blooms already there. When that was done, more white flowers of the same type, already woven into a kind of loop, came out of the bag to be placed as a necklace over the patient’s head. For these floral arrangements Van Helsing offered no explanation.

Seward avoided Holmwood’s questioning eyes. He sniffed at the spreading odor of the white blooms, and tried to keep his own bewilderment from showing in his face.


Had he not known the old man so well for such a long time, young Dr. Seward would probably have judged him mad.

Evidently now satisfied with the decoration of the room, Van Helsing looked at his watch and replaced it in his pocket, then checked the condition of both recipient and donor and looked at his watch again. All three men could hear its ticking in the otherwise silent room.

At last the professor removed the tubes from the arms of both Arthur and Lucy and lightly dressed their wounded arms.

A few minutes later, Holmwood, though still looking a trifle pale, was on his feet again and putting on his coat when, without warning, Lucy’s thin body was racked by a loud and raucous scream. It was a terrifying sound that for a moment made all three men recoil involuntarily from the bed.

Lucy shrieked again. “Is this why I cannot breathe?” With a surge of unnatural-seeming energy, she sat up in bed and hurled the vase of white flowers from the nearby table to shatter on a distant patch of floor.

Van Helsing, for some reason, did not seem terribly surprised at this reaction. He said to the patient almost calmly “The flowers are medicinal—so that you may sleep well—and dream pleasant—”

Laughing derisively, the girl in the bed violently tore off her necklace of blooms. “These flowers are common garlic!” Then she slumped back, her burst of energy exhausted.

After escorting Holmwood out of the room, Van Helsing and Seward returned to examine Lucy, who was now sleeping. At least, thought Seward, she appeared to be in substantially better condition than when Van Helsing had arrived.

The older man took care to point out to his younger colleague the pair of small, white-rimmed red punctures on the patient’s throat.

Picture from the book with Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker

“What do you make of these?” he asked his former student, squinting at him shrewdly.

Seward gave a weary shrug. “Mina—that’s Miss Murray, Lucy’s friend—has told me those wounds are the result of an unfortunate accident, with a safety pin, when Lucy was sleepwalking. It is true, they are very slow to heal.”

From the way the professor was looking at him, Seward knew that he had given the wrong answer.

Drs. Seward and Van Helsing rejoined Holmwood in the hall. One of Lucy’s maids, worried about her mistress, had gone in to sit with her for a while.

Following his ordeal, Holmwood naturally looked somewhat pale and dazed from loss of blood; and Van Helsing, speaking as if his mind were really elsewhere, advised the donor to eat heartily and get plenty of rest.

Then, halfway down the hallway, the old professor muttered, more to himself than to his companions: “The first gain is ours—but I fear for her still.” And he threw a frowning glance over his shoulder in the direction of Lucy’s room.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred