The effort succeeded, for an instant he unconsciously relapsed into his old servile manner, bent low before me, and actually fawned upon me as he replied. “I don’t want any souls, indeed, indeed! I don’t. I couldn’t use them if I had them. They would be no manner of use to me. I couldn’t eat them or . . .”
He suddenly stopped and the old cunning look spread over his face, like a wind sweep on the surface of the water.
“And doctor, as to life, what is it after all? When you’ve got all you require, and you know that you will never want, that is all. I have friends, good friends, like you, Dr. Seward.” This was said with a leer of inexpressible cunning. “I know that I shall never lack the means of life!”
I think that through the cloudiness of his insanity he saw some antagonism in me, for he at once fell back on the last refuge of such as he, a dogged silence. After a short time I saw that for the present it was useless to speak to him. He was sulky, and so I came away.
Later in the day he sent for me. Ordinarily I would not have come without special reason, but just at present I am so interested in him that I would gladly make an effort. Besides, I am glad to have anything to help pass the time. Harker is out, following up clues, and so are Lord Godalming and Quincey. Van Helsing sits in my study poring over the record prepared by the Harkers. He seems to think that by accurate knowledge of all details he will light up on some clue. He does not wish to be disturbed in the work, without cause. I would have taken him with me to see the patient, only I thought that after his last repulse he might not care to go again. There was also another reason. Renfield might not speak so freely before a third person as when he and I were alone.
I found him sitting in the middle of the floor on his stool, a pose which is generally indicative of some mental energy on his part. When I came in, he said at once, as though the question had been waiting on his lips. “What about souls?”
It was evident then that my surmise had been correct. Unconscious cerebration was doing its work, even with the lunatic. I determined to have the matter out.
“What about them yourself?” I asked.
He did not reply for a moment but looked all around him, and up and down, as though he expected to find some inspiration for an answer.
“I don’t want any souls!” he said in a feeble, apologetic way. The matter seemed preying on his mind, and so I determined to use it, to “be cruel only to be kind.” So I said, “You like life, and you want life?”
“Oh yes! But that is all right. You needn’t worry about that!”
“But,” I asked, “how are we to get the life without getting the soul also?”
This seemed to puzzle him, so I followed it up, “A nice time you’ll have some time when you’re flying out here, with the souls of thousands of flies and spiders and birds and cats buzzing and twittering and moaning all around you. You’ve got their lives, you know, and you must put up with their souls!”