inclined to think it was one of the bats which are so numerous on the northern
heights of London. "Out of so many harmless ones," he said, "there may be
some wild specimen from the South of a more malignant species. Some sailor
may have brought one home, and it managed to escape, or even from the
Zoological Gardens a young one may have got loose, or one be bred there from
a vampire. These things do occur, you, know. Only ten days ago a wolf got out,
and was, I believe, traced up in this direction. For a week after, the children were
playing nothing but Red Riding Hood on the Heath and in every alley in the place
until this `bloofer lady' scare came along, since then it has been quite a gala time
with them. Even this poor little mite, when he woke up today, asked the nurse if
he might go away. When she asked him why he wanted to go, he said he wanted
to play with the `bloofer lady'."
"I hope," said Van Helsing, "that when you are sending the child home you will
caution its parents to keep strict watch over it. These fancies to stray are most
dangerous, and if the child were to remain out another night, it would probably be
fatal. But in any case I suppose you will not let it away for some days?"
"Certainly not, not for a week at least, longer if the wound is not healed."
Our visit to the hospital took more time than we had reckoned on, and the sun
had dipped before we came out. When Van Helsing saw how dark it was, he
"There is not hurry. It is more late than I thought. Come, let us seek somewhere
that we may eat, and then we shall go on our way."
We dined at `Jack Straw's Castle' along with a little crowd of bicyclists and others
who were genially noisy. About ten o'clock we started from the inn. It was then
very dark, and the scattered lamps made the darkness greater when we were
once outside their individual radius. The Professor had evidently noted the road
we were to go, for he went on unhesitatingly, but, as for me, I was in quite a
mixup as to locality. As we went further, we met fewer and fewer people, till at
last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol of horse police
going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall of the churchyard,
which we climbed over. With some little difficulty, for it was very dark, and the
whole place seemed so strange to us, we found the Westenra tomb. The
Professor took the key, opened the creaky door, and standing back, politely, but
quite unconsciously, motioned me to precede him. There was a delicious irony in
the offer, in the courtliness of giving preference on such a ghastly occasion. My
companion followed me quickly, and cautiously drew the door to, after carefully
ascertaining that the lock was a falling, and not a spring one. In the latter case
we should have been in a bad plight. Then he fumbled in his bag, and taking out
a matchbox and a piece of candle, proceeded to make a light. The tomb in the
daytime, and when wreathed with fresh flowers, had looked grim and gruesome
enough, but now, some days afterwards, when the flowers hung lank and dead,
their whites turning to rust and their greens to browns, when the spider and the
beetle had resumed their accustomed dominance, when the time-discolored
stone, and dust-encrusted mortar, and rusty, dank iron, and tarnished brass, and
clouded silver-plating gave back the feeble glimmer of a candle, the effect was
more miserable and sordid than could have been imagined. It conveyed