Here I interrupted him. I was getting bewildered. He so crowded on my mind his list of nature’s eccentricities and possible impossibilities that my imagination was getting fired. I had a dim idea that he was teaching me some lesson, as long ago he used to do in his study at Amsterdam. But he used them to tell me the thing, so that I could have the object of thought in mind all the time. But now I was without his help, yet I wanted to follow him, so I said,
“Professor, let me be your pet student again. Tell me the thesis, so that I may apply your knowledge as you go on. At present I am going in my mind from point to point as a madman, and not a sane one, follows an idea. I feel like a novice lumbering through a bog in a midst, jumping from one tussock to another in the mere blind effort to move on without knowing where I am going.”
“That is a good image,” he said. “Well, I shall tell you. My thesis is this, I want you to believe.”
“To believe what?”
“To believe in things that you cannot. Let me illustrate. I heard once of an American who so defined faith, ’that faculty which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue.’ For one, I follow that man. He meant that we shall have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of the big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him, but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe.”
“Then you want me not to let some previous conviction inure the receptivity of my mind with regard to some strange matter. Do I read your lesson aright?”
“Ah, you are my favourite pupil still. It is worth to teach you. Now that you are willing to understand, you have taken the first step to understand. You think then that those so small holes in the children’s throats were made by the same that made the holes in Miss Lucy?”
“I suppose so.”
He stood up and said solemnly, “Then you are wrong. Oh, would it were so! But alas! No. It is worse, far, far worse.”
“In God’s name, Professor Van Helsing, what do you mean?” I cried.
He threw himself with a despairing gesture into a chair, and placed his elbows on the table, covering his face with his hands as he spoke.
“They were made by Miss Lucy!”
Dr. Seward’s diary-cont.
For a while sheer anger mastered me. It was as if he had during her life struck Lucy on the face. I smote the table hard and rose up as I said to him, “Dr. Van Helsing, are you mad?”
He raised his head and looked at me, and somehow the tenderness of his face calmed me at once. “Would I were!” he said. “Madness were easy to bear compared with truth like this. Oh, my friend, why, think you, did I go so far round, why take so long to tell so simple a thing? Was it because I hate you and have hated you all my life? Was it because I wished to give you pain? Was it that I wanted, now so late, revenge for that time when you saved my life, and from a fearful death? Ah no!”