“You loved her too, old fellow. She told me all about it, and there was no friend had a closer place in her heart than you. I don’t know how to thank you for all you have done for her. I can’t think yet . . .”
Here he suddenly broke down, and threw his arms round my shoulders and laid his head on my breast, crying, “Oh, Jack! Jack! What shall I do? The whole of life seems gone from me all at once, and there is nothing in the wide world for me to live for.”
I comforted him as well as I could. In such cases men do not need much expression. A grip of the hand, the tightening of an arm over the shoulder, a sob in unison, are expressions of sympathy dear to a man’s heart. I stood still and silent till his sobs died away, and then I said softly to him, “Come and look at her.”
Together we moved over to the bed, and I lifted the lawn from her face. God! How beautiful she was. Every hour seemed to be enhancing her loveliness. It frightened and amazed me somewhat. And as for Arthur, he fell to trembling, and finally was shaken with doubt as with an ague. At last, after a long pause, he said to me in a faint whisper, “Jack, is she really dead?”
I assured him sadly that it was so, and went on to suggest, for I felt that such a horrible doubt should not have life for a moment longer than I could help, that it often happened that after death faces become softened and even resolved into their youthful beauty, that this was especially so when death had been preceded by any acute or prolonged suffering. I seemed to quite do away with any doubt, and after kneeling beside the couch for a while and looking at her lovingly and long, he turned aside. I told him that that must be goodbye, as the coffin had to be prepared, so he went back and took her dead hand in his and kissed it, and bent over and kissed her forehead. He came away, fondly looking back over his shoulder at her as he came.
I left him in the drawing room, and told Van Helsing that he had said goodbye, so the latter went to the kitchen to tell the undertaker’s men to proceed with the preparations and to screw up the coffin. When he came out of the room again I told him of Arthur’s question, and he replied, “I am not surprised. Just now I doubted for a moment myself!”
We all dined together, and I could see that poor Art was trying to make the best of things. Van Helsing had been silent all dinner time, but when we had lit our cigars he said, “Lord . . .” but Arthur interrupted him.
“No, no, not that, for God’s sake! Not yet at any rate. Forgive me, sir. I did not mean to speak offensively. It is only because my loss is so recent.”
The Professor answered very sweetly, “I only used that name because I was in doubt. I must not call you ‘Mr.’ and I have grown to love you, yes, my dear boy, to love you, as Arthur.”