The first words were: “I’ll be quiet, Doctor. Tell them to take off the straitwaistcoat. I’ve had a terrible dream, and it’s left me so weak I cannot move… What’s wrong with my face? It feels all swollen.”
Van Helsing said, in a quiet grave tone: “Tell us your dream, Mr. Renfield.”
“Dr. Van Helsing—how good of you to be here. Where are my glasses… ? He promised me—eternal life.”
“Who did?” Seward demanded.
Renfield seemed not to hear. “But… it enraged me to think that he had been taking the life out of her. So when he came to my window tonight, I was ready for him… till I saw his eyes.” The voice of the dying man was becoming fainter, and his breath more stertorous. “They burned into me, and my strength became like water…”
Renfield’s eyes closed again, his life seemed hanging by a thread. Van Helsing urgently commanded an attendant to go for brandy.
Seward, losing control of his own nerves, had put down the trephining drill—it had done its job—and was shaking the helpless body.
“Who do you mean by ‘her’? Talk to me, man! Of what woman do you speak?”
Renfield’s eyes came open one last time. Obviously his strength was failing fast, and he could utter only a few more words.
“Van Helsing… you and your idiotic theories. I warned Doctor Jack… The Master is here, and he feeds on the pretty woman. She is his bride… his destruction is her salvation… and I… I am free!”
And with that his body spasmed and died.
At the same time, lying upstairs in the guest bedroom, Mina and Dracula were tenderly, humanly, quietly, making love.
Pulling away restricting garments, eliminating barriers, she whispered softly to him: “No one must ever come between us. I want to be what you are, see what you see, love what you love—”
“Mina—if you are to walk with me, you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.”
“Yes, I will. Yes…” She gave her assent freely, but without really grasping what the words implied. She was ready to do anything, anything at all, to be with him.
Dracula stroked her hair, the smoothness of her back, her shoulders. He murmured: “You are my love, and my life. Always.”
Gently he turned her body, exposing her neck, kissing her throat softly.
Mina moaned and made a tiny grimace of pain as he entered her veins. The pain intensified, at the same time transformed to pleasure, blurred into ecstasy.
Releasing his grip on Mina’s throat, an act that brought from her a little moan of loss and disappointment, Dracula sat up straight in the bed. He used his long, sharp thumbnail to open a vein over his own heart.
And faintly now Mina could hear the voice of her true beloved murmuring to her: “… and we shall be one flesh… flesh of my flesh… blood of my blood…”
Then, groaning in passion, he pulled her submissive head against his chest. “Drink, and join me in eternal life!”
She drank his blood. She came near swooning as her true lover’s life ran into her.
Then, an unexpected shock. The prince faltered at the height of passion and put her away from him.
“What is it?” she demanded thickly.
He said: “I cannot let this be!”
Mina cried out: “Please—I don’t care—make me yours—take me away from all this death!”
But suddenly her prince had become bitter and remote. He said: “I lied, to you, to myself. The gift of eternal life is far beyond my power. The truth is, you will be cursed—as I am, to walk in the shadow of eternal death. I love you too much to condemn you!”
“And I love you—” Mina once more pressed her lips against her lover’s chest.
At that moment the door of the bedroom burst open with sudden force, framing Van Helsing and the three other hunters, now all returned from Carfax. The professor actually fell into the room with the violence of his entry and had to scramble up from his hands and knees.
Lamps held high in some of the intruders’ hands, and light coming from the hallway beyond them, illuminated the couple embracing on the bed. In the doorway the four men froze, Van Helsing still on one knee. They were transfixed by the image of Mina, unclothed, with Dracula’s blood around her mouth, her head posed in the very act of drinking from the vampire’s veins.
For a long moment there was silence. Then Harker, out of a deep well of desolation and despair, screamed his wife’s name.
She recoiled, pulling up the bed covers in an instinctive effort to hide her shame.
At the same instant her illicit lover had undergone a convulsive physical transformation; it was in a grotesque form, midway between that of a human and of a giant bat, that Dracula, snarling with rage, flew to the room’s high ceiling, then dove again to confront his persecutors.
In a room now lighted through its window by the mounting flames of burning Carfax, the men attacked him wildly with their various edged weapons.
Dracula, moving with inhuman speed, wrenched a saber out of the grasp of one of his attackers. Clutching this weapon in a hand that was more than half a claw, the prince parried and fought back, with superhuman strength and skill and quickness, that more than equalized the odds against him.
Twice in those brief but seemingly endless seconds of violence he had the chance to kill one of his opponents—first Seward, then Quincey Morris—but each time Mina screamed and the life of one of Dracula’s enemies was spared.
Then Van Helsing, casting aside physical weapons and brandishing a raised crucifix, advanced on Dracula. Boldly the professor confronted his great antagonist, saying: “Your war against God is over. You must pay for your crimes.”
His enemy contemptuously threw down his saber. A voice, hissing but intelligible, issued from his deformed throat. “Young fool! You would destroy me with the cross? I served it, centuries before you were born.”
The vampire’s grotesque forefinger stabbed its pointed nail toward Mina. His bestial eyes, gleaming red, challenged each of the men in turn. “She, your best beloved, is now my flesh, my blood, my kin, my bride! I warn you I will fight for her. My armies will fight for her, my creatures to do my bidding—”
“Leave her to God!” the old man commanded. “Your armies are all dead, and we have met your beasts and do not fear them. Now you must pay for your crimes.”
Hissing again, Dracula stamped a clawed foot; the cross burst into flame. Van Helsing dropped it, and with his other hand splashed the vampire copiously from his flask of holy water. The liquid striking his monstrous flesh smoked and burned like acid, and Dracula screamed, recoiling. Even as he stepped back he straightened, to take a final, longing look at Mina.
As the men with weapons in their hands rushed at him again, he was transformed before their eyes into a man-sized column of rats, which squealed in a hundred inhuman voices and collapsed into a furry pile, the pile in turn flattening itself at once, dissipating into a scurrying black carpet, which in moments had vanished out of the room by every available means of egress.
Silence fell; the enemy was gone, had escaped out of his hunters’ reach. The men’s weapons, physical and spiritual alike, hung useless in their hands, and they stared at one another with a horror approaching that of ultimate defeat.
Mina still huddled on the bed, trying to cover her shame with bloodied sheets.
“Unclean,” she sobbed hopelessly, breaking down utterly at last. “Unclean.”
By sunrise Mina’s hysteria had passed, much to the relief of all the men who still stood ready to die in her defense. All physical traces of last night’s horrific incident had been efficiently removed within minutes of the event; clean sheets and quilt had been provided promptly by a staff of servants well accustomed to medical emergencies at any hour. The victim had even slept a little, and by dawn appeared to be recovering—more or less—from at least the short-term effects of her ghastly experience. On that much Drs. Seward and Van Helsing, meeting in almost continuous professional consultation, could agree.
Neither Mina nor any of the men with her had yet really discussed what long-term effects could be expected from her intimate contact with the vampire. The assumption made by all the men was that the intimacy they had observed had been forced by Dracula; and the unhappy woman had said nothing to contradict that idea.
The immediate shock of the experience seemed to have been at least as great for Harker as for his wife; and in the case of her husband the degree of recovery was, in Seward’s estimation at least, somewhat more difficult to judge. Harker, in the hours since his discovery of his wife in the vampire’s embrace, had for the most part maintained a stoic attitude. Whether he had slept at all was uncertain. He had little to say to anyone, including his wife, and his eyes showed a distant, withdrawn look; his nostrils quivered frequently while his mouth was set as steel.