In addition their leader had provided every member of the raiding party with a necklace of garlic and a crucifix.
Holmwood had also pressed into service for the occasion three scrappy hunting terriers. These dogs whined in anticipation and tugged eagerly at their leashes, and their owner remarked dryly that he feared that in an old building like Carfax rats might be a problem.
Van Helsing, having at least glanced at every item of the party’s equipment, finally nodded his approval.
Then, in a hushed voice, he gave the men their final instructions.
“He can direct the elements, the storm, the fog, the thunder. He commands the meaner things, the bat, rodent, wolf. He must rest in sacred earth of his homeland to gain his evil powers—and that earth is where we shall destroy him.
“But remember, if we fail here, it is not mere life or death. It is that we become like him, preying on the bodies and souls of those we love best.”
Quincey Morris, who had at that moment finished loading his Navy Colt, snapped the heavy weapon shut with a metallic click.
Van Helsing glanced at him. “Mr. Morris, it has been demonstrated that your bullets will not harm him. He must be dismembered. I suggest you use your big knife.”
Quincey looked up. “Hellfire, I wasn’t plannin’ on gettin’ that close to him, Doc.”
Van Helsing stared. Then, in a nervous reaction to prolonged strain, he began to laugh. His laughter grew, swelled into a roar. Tears came to the old man’s eyes.
No one else joined in, and now it was the Texan’s turn to stare. He hadn’t been trying to make a joke.
Renfield, gripping the bars of his ground-floor window some yards away, was watching and listening with a concentration of maniacal intensity; his keen ears could hear enough of what was being said to catch the general meaning. None of the group took notice of him, or had so much as glanced in his direction.
Jonathan Harker had now drawn his beloved Mina a little apart from the others and was saying good-bye to her—for a little while.
In turn she murmured her love for him, and her determination to be faithful.
Harker might have wondered why the question of fidelity should have arisen now at all—but in fact he scarcely seemed to be listening. Gritting his teeth, he muttered: “I aided that fiend in coming here. And now I must send him back to hell.”
On hearing that, Mina looked bleakly unhappy. Days ago her suspicions regarding the identity of her prince had become certainty. “I almost feel pity for anyone—for anything—so hunted as is this count.”
Her husband shook his head. “How can you pity such a creature? I brought him here, and now I must send him back to hell. When this task is done, I shall never leave you again.”
Then Harker’s expression softened as he lovingly kissed his wife, and tenderly gave her into the temporary care of Dr. Seward.
At that, Seward briskly wished his colleagues good hunting, and reminded them he meant to join them as quickly as the press of business would allow. Then he, for once without the pair of sturdy keepers who were his usual escort on the grounds of the asylum, began to conduct Mina back into the building. There, on an upper floor, where Seward himself had his modest living quarters, the housekeeper had already prepared a bedroom and sitting room for her.
After pressing his wife’s hand one more time, Harker turned away to join Van Helsing, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood in their grim, self-chosen task.
Renfield, observing with great excitement that Mina was about to enter the building, hastened impatiently from his cell’s window to its door, where he pressed his face against the bars in an effort to catch another glimpse of her. If only she should happen to come by this corridor—
Renfield’s hopes were fulfilled. Within a minute Mina Harker and Seward and the two guards were passing along a hallway within sight of Renfield’s cell.
As they did so, the madman called out almost cheerily: “The Master—I smell him! He feeds on the pretty miss.”
Mina, startled by an unknown voice that spoke in such clear cultured tones, stopped to stare in confusion at the speaker.
Renfield, much excited by having gained her attention, pressed himself even more frantically against the bars of his door.
He cried: “You’re the bride my master covets!”
Seward did his best, short of using force, to hurry Mina along. But she resisted and he had to stop.
“Dr. Seward, who is that man?”
Her escort sighed. “That is, of course, one of my patients—Mr. Renfield. Professor Van Helsing suspects that he is linked somehow to the count.”
“Renfield?” Mina was surprised. “The same man who was once Jonathan’s colleague?”
“I fear so, yes.”
“Then you must let me see him.”
Ignoring the doctor’s objections, continuing to stare at the yearning madman, she moved back a few steps closer to the cell.
Seward, having given up trying to dissuade Mina from the confrontation, protectively came with her. “Renfield, behave yourself now. This is Mrs. Harker.”
Mina was somewhat reassured by her first good look at the man inside the bars. He was, for the moment at least, quite calm and lucid. In fact he gave her a small, almost formal bow as he bade her a good evening.
“Good evening, Mr. Renfield,” the young woman responded. She chose to ignore the smell and the appearance of the cell.
And now, as Renfield looked his visitor deep in the eye, his expression began to grow fearful. His voice sank almost to a whisper as he repeated: “You’re the bride my master covets!”
Mina’s cheeks colored. “You are mistaken. I have a husband. I am Mrs. Harker.”
The imprisoned man shook his head, ever so slightly, from side to side, as if he were refusing to believe in any ordinary husband for this woman. He announced: “My master tells me about you.”
“What does he tell you?”
Seward, on the verge of intervening, hovered nearby. Renfield for once ignored the doctor. To Mina he whispered: “He is coming… he is coming for you.”
Then, growing more feverishly excited, he motioned his visitor closer. “But don’t stay. Get away from all these men! I pray God I may never see your sweet face again.”
Reaching out between the bars so calmly that Mina allowed him to take her hand, Renfield brought it gently to his lips and kissed it. “May God bless you and keep you.”
Mina could think of nothing to say, but it was plain that she was deeply disturbed and fascinated.
Then suddenly Renfield erupted, gripping the bars with both hands, smashing his head against them.
He screamed out: “Master! Master! You promised me eternal life, but you give it to the woman!”
At this Mina allowed herself to be hurried away to the upstairs living quarters that had been prepared for her. But the loud cries of the madman followed her. “Doctor Jack! I am no lunatic! I’m a sane man fighting for his soul!”
On entering her suite of sitting room and bedroom, on the first floor above ground level, Mina went immediately to the nearest window, which offered a dim nighttime view of Carfax. Looking out over the stone dividing wall, which was almost invisible amid the bare branches of the intervening trees, she could plainly see the indirect glow of the lights carried by the party of men among whom was her husband.
And now, distantly, she could begin to hear the repeated thud of an ax, swung by strong arms, striking heavy wood.
The men were in deadly earnest, and there was no longer the slightest doubt in Mina’s mind as to just who they were hunting. Her husband’s mortal enemy was her own prince and lover. Bloody conflict seemed inevitable; Jonathan might be killed—at his hands. Or he might die, at Jonathan’s—and Mina Harker did not know, could not decide, which outcome would be more terrible.
The heavy old doors of Carfax had been fitted with new locks, propped up in some cases with new timbers, and barred from the inside against intruders. They were decidedly sturdy doors. But Harker and his three bold companions, wielding ax and steel bars, soon succeeded in forcing an entrance to that ancient house—which still, from the outside, appeared to be abandoned.
Harker and his comrades, on pushing their way into the hall of Carfax through the splintered wreckage of the first demolished barrier, saw by the light of their electric torches and their burning lanterns that the whole place was thick with dust. In the corners were masses of spiderwebs, whereon the dust had gathered till they looked like old tattered rags as the weight had torn them partly down.
The professor paused to contemplate this for a moment. Then he spoke over his shoulder to Harker. Van Helsing’s voice was uncharacteristically hushed, like that of a man wary of waking some nearby sleeper.