I am puzzled afresh about Renfield. His moods change so rapidly that I find it difficult to keep touch of them, and as they always mean something more than his own well-being, they form a more than interesting study. This morning, when I went to see him after his repulse of Van Helsing, his manner was that of a man commanding destiny. He was, in fact, commanding destiny, subjectively. He did not really care for any of the things of mere earth, he was in the clouds and looked down on all the weaknesses and wants of us poor mortals.
I thought I would improve the occasion and learn something, so I asked him, “What about the flies these times?”
He smiled on me in quite a superior sort of way, such a smile as would have become the face of Malvolio, as he answered me, “The fly, my dear sir, has one striking feature. It’s wings are typical of the aerial powers of the psychic faculties. The ancients did well when they typified the soul as a butterfly!”
I thought I would push his analogy to its utmost logically, so I said quickly, “Oh, it is a soul you are after now, is it?”
His madness foiled his reason, and a puzzled look spread over his face as, shaking his head with a decision which I had but seldom seen in him.
He said, “Oh, no, oh no! I want no souls. Life is all I want.” Here he brightened up. “I am pretty indifferent about it at present. Life is all right. I have all I want. You must get a new patient, doctor, if you wish to study zoophagy!”
This puzzled me a little, so I drew him on. “Then you command life. You are a god, I suppose?”
He smiled with an ineffably benign superiority. “Oh no! Far be it from me to arrogate to myself the attributes of the Deity. I am not even concerned in His especially spiritual doings. If I may state my intellectual position I am, so far as concerns things purely terrestrial, somewhat in the position which Enoch occupied spiritually!”
This was a poser to me. I could not at the moment recall Enoch’s appositeness, so I had to ask a simple question, though I felt that by so doing I was lowering myself in the eyes of the lunatic. “And why with Enoch?”
“Because he walked with God.”
I could not see the analogy, but did not like to admit it, so I harked back to what he had denied. “So you don’t care about life and you don’t want souls. Why not?” I put my question quickly and somewhat sternly, on purpose to disconcert him.
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!”
Something seemed to affect his imagination, for he put his fingers to his ears and shut his eyes, screwing them up tightly just as a small boy does when his face is being soaped. There was something pathetic in it that touched me. It also gave me a lesson, for it seemed that before me was a child, only a child, though the features were worn, and the stubble on the jaws was white. It was evident that he was undergoing some process of mental disturbance, and knowing how his past moods had interpreted things seemingly foreign to himself, I thought I would enter into his mind as well as I could and go with him
The first step was to restore confidence, so I asked him, speaking pretty loud so that he would hear me through his closed ears,”Would you like some sugar to get your flies around again?”
He seemed to wake up all at once, and shook his head. With a laugh he replied, “Not much! Flies are poor things, after all!” After a pause he added, “But I don’t want their souls buzzing round me, all the same.”
“Or spiders?” I went on.
“Blow spiders! What’s the use of spiders? There isn’t anything in them to eat or . . .” He stopped suddenly as though reminded of a forbidden topic.
“So, so!” I thought to myself, “this is the second time he has suddenly stopped at the word `drink’. What does it mean?”
Renfield seemed himself aware of having made a lapse, for he hurried on, as though to distract my attention from it, “I don’t take any stock at all in such matters. `Rats and mice and such small deer,’ as Shakespeare has it, `chicken feed of the larder’ they might be called. I’m past all that sort of nonsense. You might as well ask a man to eat molecules with a pair of chopsticks, as to try to interest me about the less carnivora, when I know of what is before me.”
“I see,” I said.”You want big things that you can make your teeth meet in? How would you like to breakfast on an elephant?”
“What ridiculous nonsense you are talking?” He was getting too wide awake, so I thought I would press him hard.
“I wonder,” I said reflectively, “what an elephant’s soul is like!”
The effect I desired was obtained, for he at once fell from his high-horse and became a child again.
“I don’t want an elephant’s soul, or any soul at all!” he said. For a few moments he sat despondently. Suddenly he jumped to his feet, with his eyes blazing and all the signs of intense cerebral excitement. “To hell with you and your souls!” he shouted. “Why do you plague me about souls? Haven’t I got enough to worry, and pain, to distract me already, without thinking of souls?”
He looked so hostile that I thought he was in for another homicidal fit, so I blew my whistle.
The instant, however, that I did so he became calm, and said apologetically, “Forgive me, Doctor. I forgot myself. You do not need any help. I am so worried in my mind that I am apt to be irritable. If you only knew the problem I have to face, and that I am working out, you would pity, and tolerate, and pardon me. Pray do not put me in a strait waistcoat. I want to think and I cannot think freely when my body is confined. I am sure you will understand!”
He had evidently self-control, so when the attendants came I told them not to mind, and they withdrew. Renfield watched them go. When the door was closed he said with considerable dignity and sweetness, “Dr. Seward, you have been very considerate towards me. Believe me that I am very, very grateful to you!”
I thought it well to leave him in this mood, and so I came away. There is certainly something to ponder over in this man’s state. Several points seem to make what the American interviewer calls “a story,” if one could only get them in proper order. Here they are:
Will not mention “drinking.”
Fears the thought of being burdened with the “soul” of anything.
Has no dread of wanting “life” in the future.
Despises the meaner forms of life altogether, though he dreads being haunted by their souls.
Logically all these things point one way! He has assurance of some kind that he will acquire some higher life.
He dreads the consequence, the burden of a soul. Then it is a human life he looks to!
And the assurance . . . ?
Merciful God! The Count has been to him, and there is some new scheme of terror afoot!
Later.–I went after my round to Van Helsing and told him my suspicion. He grew very grave, and after thinking the matter over for a while asked me to take him to Renfield. I did so. As we came to the door we heard the lunatic within singing gaily, as he used to do in the time which now seems so long ago.
When we entered we saw with amazement that he had spread out his sugar as of old. The flies, lethargic with the autumn, were beginning to buzz into the room. We tried to make him talk of the subject of our previous conversation, but he would not attend. He went on with his singing, just as though we had not been present. He had got a scrap of paper and was folding it into a notebook. We had to come away as ignorant as we went in.
His is a curious case indeed. We must watch him tonight.