Van Helsing doused the swarming rodents with holy water; then he tried coal oil, which he had brought along as a means of intensifying fire, and found it at least as effective.
After first making sure of a way out, for themselves and their ferocious allies the terriers, the men set fire to the stacked remnants of the coffin boxes, and gathering the most valuable of their tools and weapons, shielding their faces from the sudden roar of flame, they conducted an orderly withdrawal.
Back in the asylum Dracula easily overpowered the burly madman. In his rage the prince lifted Renfield bodily from the ground and smashed him several times against the bars of the cell door.
After pausing briefly to observe the result, Dracula went on his way—through that door, moving freely now into the interior of the building.
Renfield, still breathing but fatally injured, lay where he had been thrown down, collapsed against the bars. Pain, numbness, and paralysis, in different parts of his body, made him aware that he had been hideously hurt. Dimly, as through a haze of his own blood, he could see and hear the running feet of several keepers, hastening to his cell to investigate the unusual disturbance.
Renfield muttered: “Her salvation… is his destruction. And I am free…”
And with those words he understood that he was dying. It felt like a long dying, going on and on without end.
Mina was totally unaware of what was happening in Renfield’s cell downstairs, and equally, helplessly, ignorant of what might be going on at Carfax. Once Jonathan and his companions had entered the old house there, even the indirect glow of their lights had ceased to be visible from her window in the asylum.
But whenever she closed her eyes, her active imagination showed her scenes of lurid horror. Even now her prince might be sharing the grisly fate of Lucy—decapitation and the stake. Or her husband might be overwhelmed by the same horror that had already left him gray and trembling, prematurely aged.
If Van Helsing and the others were right, and the prince was really there… but Mina had no way of knowing where he was. Dracula had vanished completely from her ken when he disappeared into the crowd along the London street.
If only she could know . . . but she could not.
Presently the young woman arose and turned away from her observation post at the window of her small apartment’s sitting room. She tottered, exhausted, into the bedroom, and there, without undressing, threw herself down on the bed, telling herself that after a few minutes’ rest she would resume her vigil.
Mina Harker was fast asleep minutes before the first red light of the flames at Carfax showed in the nearby window.
Hers was a brief, uneasy slumber, troubled by strange dreams.
And the strangest dream of all was that the prince, Mina’s secret, incomparable lover, the man whose destiny seemed to have been entangled with hers for all eternity—the prince himself had somehow come to be with her now, in this very bed in this unfamiliar room on the upper floor of Dr. Jack’s asylum.
And in the depth of Mina’s dream it seemed to her no more than natural that he, the man she truly loved, should be here with her, lying at her side, beginning to embrace her, just as if he and not Jonathan were her true and rightful husband.
In her sleep the young woman murmured helplessly:
“Oh, my love—yes—you have found me.”
And his voice when he replied was softer than she remembered it, but otherwise just the same.
“Mina… my most precious life—”
For the moment, in the glorious freedom of the world of dreams, she could be free of conflict, supremely happy.
Softly she acknowledged: “I have wanted this to happen. I know now that—I want to be with you always—”
Then with a great shock Mina Harker came wideawake. This was no dream. Or rather it was a dream somehow come true. Mina sat up with a gasp.
The presence of the prince, her lover, in the darkness of the bedroom was as firm and real as at any time on any of the occasions since she had met him.
Lying close beside her, he whispered: “Command me, and I will leave you. But no mere mortal man shall come between us. Will you command me to go?”
“No. No, I should, but I cannot. I was so afraid I would never feel your touch again. I feared you were dead—” Mina paused in fearful wonder. “But you are—you can be—no mere man.”
In response her beloved prince raised himself to a sitting position and took her hand. Gently he placed her palm under her own breast first.
He said: “Your heart beats, here—” Then he moved her hand to his bare chest: “But here—”
She reacted in silent horror to what she felt; or rather, to what she could not feel. There was no heartbeat.
He told her solemnly: “There is no life in this body.”
Mina involuntarily shrank back a little. “But you live. What are you? I must know. You must tell me.”
“Can you bear the knowledge?”
“I must. I cannot bear to remain in ignorance.”
“Very well. I am accounted lifeless, soulless. I am hated, and feared. I have endured oceans of time—committed unspeakable acts—to keep some grip on life, until I could find you.”
“Yes.” His voice pursued her relentlessly. “I am the monster that the breathing men would kill. I am Dracula.”
There was a long pause in which Mina remained sitting in the bed, the coverlet pulled around her shoulders as if she were freezing cold. At last she said: “Then the old man is right. It is as I feared. You are the one who held Jonathan a prisoner. And it was you who made dear Lucy—what she became.”
Dracula nodded slowly. “I confess those evil deeds, and worse.”
“Yes! I tell you that without you—without the life, the love you give me—I am dead to all humanity. Without you I am nothing more than a beast that feeds on human blood!”
On hearing this, Mina broke down, flailing her small fists at her lover in ineffective anger. Dracula only averted his face.
But in the next moment she had seized him, clutched at him desperately, with the grip of a drowning woman. “God forgive me! I love you! I do!”
She held her lover gently, stroked his long, dark hair. And the face that Dracula turned again to her was filled with tender and undying love.
At the same time, downstairs in Renfield’s cell, a keeper was showing Seward and Van Helsing into the small, barred room where the critically injured patient, his body badly broken, lay on the floor in a small pool of his own blood.
Both physicians were smudged with dust and dirt, their clothing saturated with the smells of age and decay, of rats and smoke. Both were already physically worn from their recently concluded struggle at Carfax. But there was no chance now for either man to rest.
On entering the cell, Seward at once demanded more light, then knelt to pass skilled hands over the fallen figure.
At the doctor’s touch, Renfield moaned feebly.
“Back broken, possibly,” Seward reported grimly, a moment later. “And certainly cranial fractures. I don’t see how he could do this to himself. One injury or the other, perhaps; not both.”
Van Helsing, down on one knee nearby, frowned in sympathy with Seward’s patient, and joined in the examination.
“Poor devil!” the professor muttered. “We must attempt trephination—to release the intracranial pressure. Quickly! It is our only hope of being able to talk to him.”
The lights the doctors had requested soon arrived, in the hands of silent attendants. Seward sent another assistant for surgical instruments.
Moments later Renfield’s heavy body had been laid out on the narrow bed where he ordinarily slept. When Seward’s bag of medical instruments arrived, he selected from it a sizable two-handed trephine, a tool much resembling a carpenter’s brace and bit. With an attendant now holding a lamp, and Dr. Van Helsing supporting Renfield’s head, Seward used a small knife to make an incision, loosening a flap of scalp. Then he took up the trephine and began to bore a hole more than an inch in diameter in the back of the unconscious patient’s skull.
The trephine made a grating noise as it bit bone. Blood flowed freely from the semidetached flap of Renfield’s scalp, soaking Van Helsing’s clothing; the professor still gripped the insensible victim, in an effort to prevent some convulsive movement that could be instantly fatal.
Within seconds Seward’s efforts were rewarded when a disk of skull came loose, the bone startlingly white in the lamplight. The internal pressure was relieved with another gush of blood.
The patient’s body jerked, and for a moment Seward thought that he was dead. But then Renfield’s eyes opened, and the physicians leaned close to hear what he might say.