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'A policeman's lot is not a happy one.'
The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan
From the journal of Mrs Mina Harker
One of the windows had started to glow with that strange blue-white light I now found so familiar. The window was a stained glass image of Saint George slaying the dragon. The dragon was coiled at the saint's feet, his spear embedded in its throat. As I watched, the saint plucked the spear out of the beast and stepped down into the nave. It raised the spear, preparing to strike down the Doctor as he had his mortal enemy.
'Goodbye, Doctor,' Samuels crowed. 'May the Lord have mercy on your soul.'
The Doctor jumped backwards and the spear crashed into the pew, splintering the wood.
'Now, why couldn't you be one of those insubstantial phantoms, hmm?' he asked as he scurried out of the way.
'You cannot hide, Doctor,' Samuels called out. 'The spirit will never tire.'
'Two can play at that game, Reverend,' the Doctor shouted back. He turned to face the spirit. In the song school I could hear the piano burst into life.
'This should raise a few spirits,' the Doctor quipped. Then he burst into song.
'This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter
'Isn't generally heard and if it is it doesn't matter.'
The spirit quivered, its outline wavered, but then it lunged forward again and the Doctor had barely enough time to hop out of the way.
'Okay, so you didn't like that one,' the Doctor commented. 'How about this:
'A wandering minstrel I -
'A thing of shreds and patches.
'Of ballads, songs and snatches,
'And dreamy lullaby!
'Constance, Mina, join in!'
I did not know the words, but I could easily follow the tune being hammered out on the old piano. So, I leant my voice to his and despite the embarrassment of my nonsensical syllables, I sang loudly and with confidence as if his life depended on it because I was beginning to believe that it did. Inspired by my example, Constance too joined in, weakly at first, but with increasing vigour.
And as I watched the spirit began to lose substance. The spear dropped from his hands and vanished. Then I saw a familiar figure enter the church. It was the little girl from the abbey and the cave. As we sang, she skipped her way up the nave until she was standing in front of the apparition. I almost stopped singing, but the Doctor waved his encouragement. Whatever spell we were weaving must not be broken. The girl took the saint's hand in hers and led him back towards the window. Then, together, they passed through it and disappeared.
'Thank you William and Arthur,' the Doctor breathed as the piano music stopped.
Reverend Samuels was curled on the floor of the nave, crushed by his failure to destroy his enemy. He stretched out a hand towards Constance.
'Help me,' he croaked.
Constance ran, not towards Samuels, but to hide behind the Doctor.
'Poor man,' he said. 'His spirits thrived on negative emotions despair, loneliness, hate. We deprived them of those so they faded away to nothing. Like his dreams.'
'What should we do with him, Doctor?' I asked.
'Leave him be. He's broken now,' the Doctor said. Then he murmured,
'My object all sublime
'I shall achieve in time
'To let the punishment fit the crime
'The punishment fit the crime.'
He took Constance's hand in his and led her from the church. I followed at a discreet distance behind them.
* * *
From the letters of Inspector Thomas Lovegrove to his sister
23rd November 1900
I have a suspicion that this may be the last letter I shall ever write. I had a dream last night and if it portends the future than I fear I may not be long for this world. Do not grieve for me, though, for I feel in much need of rest. Just promise me that you will take care of little Simon for me after I am gone. Tell him I'll always love him.
I dined once more with Colonel Ashforth last night. We were not menaced by any more spectres. He tells me that the explosives should arrive in the morning. Perhaps then we shall finally be rid of the evil that haunts this place. I cannot help but wonder, however, if the evil is not of our own making. The Doctor speaks of our memories being given form. Does this then mean that all we are opposed to are our own inner demons? If so, then how can destroying a cliff face rid us of our fears? I feel that I shall be carrying my burden with me for a long time.
I retired to my room musing on these thoughts. I packed my bags in readiness to travel on the afternoon train once our work here is complete. Then I extinguished the candle and climbed into bed. I could not sleep. I heard the clock chime every quarter hour until finally it struck the twelve strokes of midnight. I decided that I was too warm so I rose and opened my window in the hope that the fresh air might aid my slumbers. The wind rushed into the room and the curtains billowed like sails.
I turned my back and lay down on the bed.
She was standing in the corner. She was wearing the same dress I remembered from our wedding day. Her blonde curls caressed her shoulders. I sat up and took her tiny hands in mine.
'Caroline,' I said, 'you've come back to me.'
I could feel the years rushing away and suddenly I was so much younger, that enthusiastic constable who had first fallen in love with this beautiful young woman. I remembered the joy I felt when, to my undisguised amazement, she had said yes when I suggested marriage. All the pain I had felt since her death was rushed away as we sat there and I breathed in her scent. She smelt of lilacs, just as she had on that rainy day when we first kissed. I traced her face with one hand, tenderly fearing she might crumble at my touch. Instead she pressed back against me.
We lay together on the bed until dawn.
Today my duty calls me to destroy two caves. Yesterday I had thought nothing of it. Today I have a much greater sense of what I have to lose. She was back with me, June. I held her in my arms, felt the softness of her skin. How can I let that go a second time?
I do not yet know what I shall do today, but I fear that whatever choice I make it shall be my last.
Farewell and think well of me whatever should occur.
With my fondest wishes,
* * *
From the journal of Mrs Mina Harker
It was raining. It was that most perverse of rains, heavy enough to be annoying, but too light to justify the use of an umbrella. It was a depressing start to the day.
We were standing on the beach. My feet were sinking into the damp grey sand. The weather had given everything a greyish hue. The Doctor was perched on the rocks issuing instructions to the soldiers. Colonel Ashforth was standing further along the beach staring out to sea. He wanted no further part I this madness, he had said and the Doctor had not pressed him on the point. The colonel had done his part.
The soldiers had arrived on the morning train and had hired a cart to carry their boxes into town and thence down to the beach. They had been told to obey the colonel's instructions, but soon deferred to the Doctor when it became clear who was really behind this operation.
In the cold light of day it all seemed so unreal, really. On a damp November morning, with the wind blowing sea spray against the rocks and the sand getting everywhere, it was hard to believe in such fantastical things as ghosts. I had to keep referring back to my diary to convince myself I had actually lived through the events of the past few days.
As the soldiers began to descend deeper into the caves to set their charges, the Doctor scrambled down the rocks to join me. As he hopped from rock to rock I was struck once more by the image of a big child at play. It made me wonder if that was how he saw the world, through a child's eyes, with all the innocence that entailed and the black-and-white morality. There were hidden depths to him, I was sure, but perhaps at heart the Doctor was absurdly simple. He was just someone who always tried to do the right thing.
He jumped down on to the sand beside me.
'Well, we could have asked for nicer weather,' he commented.
'It seems appropriate somehow,' I observed. 'There's a sadness to it that seems right.'
'Yes,' the Doctor said. 'Yes it does. These sorts of things should always be accompanied by a certain sense of loss. Are we doing the right thing, do you think?'
'I'm sorry?' I said. His question had caught me off guard.
'I mean ' the Doctor began. 'Oh, I don't know what I mean. It just seems so wasteful, that's all. This is something unique and wondrous and strange and we're destroying it because it scares us. That can't be right, can it?'
'A man died because of it, Doctor,' I said. 'You could have been killed twice because of it. I'm not saying it's right to destroy it, but isn't it more wrong to leave it be knowing what could happen. It's like, oh, I don't know, a rabid dog. It can't help itself so you can't hold it responsible for its actions, but if you don't do something about it if you don't kill it consider the harm it would do. Maybe mankind isn't ready for this thing, whatever it is and all we're doing is putting it out of harm's way.'
'True,' the Doctor agreed, 'but all its doing is responding to what is inside of us. Destroying it isn't going to make those things go away.'
I did not have an answer for that.
'By the way,' the Doctor continued, 'I've been meaning to ask you, why is it you haven't been menaced by any ghosts? You're not going to tell me it's because you don't have any bad memories.'
'No, no,' I confessed, 'I have bad memories and there are things in my past I would rather forget. I suppose, though, that I've made peace with them. Tragedies happen and that's the way it is. I cannot change anything after the event so why dwell on it. When I close my eyes I remember the joys laughing with Lucy over the tiniest thing, marrying my Jonathan in Budapest, bouncing little Quincey upon my knee and the tragedies sleep until I make an effort to recall them. I remember dear Jonathan telling me that the past is the past. We should not dwell on it, but look to the future. Life is for the living, it is wasted on the dead.'
'Admirable sentiments,' the Doctor said. 'Would that we could all let go of our pain so easily. Sometimes I look around and feel that everyone carries a secret burden on the heart.'
'Good day, Doctor,' called a strident voice from up the beach.
Emily Percival was walking slowly towards us, accompanied by Constance. Perkins, their manservant, was doing his best to hold an umbrella over the pair of them.
'It would seem that we owe you a debt, Doctor,' Mrs Percival said when she had reached us. 'I wanted to thank you in person for what you did for my daughter.' She waved away his protests. 'Now, no modesty, Doctor. I'm an old woman and I know better.
'So, these are the famous caves are they? The ones where your ghosts appear from? It would be pleasant to see my husband again, one last time.'
The Doctor smiled. 'A wise woman was just telling me that all one has to do is close one's eyes.'
Emily Percival turned her steely gaze on me. 'Then she is a very wise woman indeed, Doctor,' she pronounced.
'How is it coming along over there?' the Doctor shouted to the soldiers.
'Nearly finished, sir,' one of them called back.
'It might be wise to retire to a safe distance,' the Doctor suggested.
The five of us slowly strolled away from the caves.
The sound of running made us all look up. Inspector Lovegrove was sprinting towards us. He had lost his hat and his hair was dishevelled. His coat looked as if he had slept in it.
'I won't let you take her from me,' he shouted.
The Doctor grabbed him as he ran past and forced him to stand still.
'What is it, what's the matter, man?' he demanded.
'It's Caroline,' the inspector sobbed. 'I saw her.'
'When?' the Doctor asked. 'Where?'
'Last night,' the inspector explained, his voice breaking. 'She came to my room.'
'And what of it?' the Doctor persisted.
'Don't you understand?' the inspector asked. 'SHE'S DEAD! But that thing in the caves, it brought her back to me. She doesn't have to stay dead, you see, but you want to send her back again.'
'Inspector Thomas!' The Doctor shook him. 'She was just a figment of your imagination. She wasn't real! She may have looked real and felt real, but your wife is dead and she isn't coming back. I'm sorry, but that's just the way the world works. Don't you think there are people I would bring back if I could, but we can't. Callous as it sounds, we have to deal with it and move on.'
'But I saw her,' the inspector moaned. 'I touched her.'
'It wasn't her,' the Doctor insisted. 'It was just something conjured from your memories.'
'That doesn't matter!' The inspector shook violently, hurling the Doctor to the floor. Then he sprinted for the caves. 'I won't lose her again,' he called back.
'The fool,' the Doctor said, climbing to his feet and dusting himself down. 'The complete and utter fool. Stay here, all of you.' Then he raced after the inspector and disappeared into the darkness of the cave.
* * *
Hours passed. We had climbed up on to the hill and were seated amid the abbey ruins looking down at the beach. Perkins had been sent home and returned a while later carrying a basket of sandwiches which we shared around. Most of the sandwiches we left in the basket. None of us had any appetite.
One of the soldiers volunteered to go in after them, but the colonel held him back.
'We've already lost two men down there to whatever that thing is,' he said. 'I won't sacrifice any more. Either they get out of their under their own power or they don't get out at all.'
He was right, of course. None of us knew what had happened to them and it was too great a risk to keep sending down more men. That did not stop me pleading with the colonel to send somebody, however. He listened patiently before refusing all of my suggestions. I stalked angrily away from him. At first I did not realise where I was wandering. Then Mrs Percival gave a polite cough.
'If I might have a word, Mrs Harker,' she said. It was not a request. 'Perkins, would you look after Constance for me.'
We strolled slowly through the ruins, away from the others.
'I understand that you are a school mistress?' Mrs Percival said as we walked.
'Yes, madam,' I answered. I was not accustomed to dealing with her level of society and had to repress the instinct to curtsy.
'I have the pleasure of looking after the welfare of a small class of students there,' I replied.
'A pity,' Mrs Percival commented.
'Madam?' I did not understand her remark.
'I said that it is a pity,' Mrs Percival repeated. 'You were obviously meant for greater things.'
'I see nothing demeaning in teaching, madam,' I replied, a bit more haughtily than I had intended. I have always taken pride in my work. 'In fact, I can think of no greater calling than trying to improve the fortunes of others.'
'Quite so, quite so,' Mrs Percival agreed. 'I did not mean to make light of your profession. I merely meant that you dedicate your time to "a small group of students" when someone of your obvious intelligence should be affecting the lives of a great many more people. As I said, a pity.'
We were now out of sight of our companions.
'I believe you know the Doctor better than anyone here,' Mrs Percival said.
I considered for a moment. 'I believe that I know the Doctor as well as anyone,' I agreed, then qualified, 'which is to say that I hardly know him at all. I'm not sure that anyone can really know such a man.'
'Indeed,' Mrs Percival said. 'Still, you are the best judge of him I have available. Would you say he is a good man?'
'Well, that would depend on what you meant,' I replied. 'If you were asking about his capacity for goodness then I would say that I have never meant anyone who gave more freely of themselves. If you are asking about his quality as a man then I would have to say that he still seems to be learning what that means.'
Mrs Percival raised an eyebrow. 'A curious fellow indeed. I have seen the way my daughter looks at him, you know. I am not as blind to the ways of the world as you might think. Do you think that this Doctor might '
'No,' I answered with certainty. 'He loves her, but in the same way he loves you or I. I'm not sure he could commit himself to a single individual. I doubt he even understands the concept.'
'I thought as much.' Mrs Percival nodded sadly. 'Poor Constance. She will be heart-broken, of course. And she's suffered so much recently. Still, that is the way of things. I shall be there for her as always.'
'If there's anything I can do to help?' I offered.
'You are most kind, Mrs Harker,' she responded.
'Mina,' I said.
'Mina.' Mrs Percival nodded thoughtfully. 'Emily. Come, Mina, we must be getting back. The others will be worrying.'
* * *
Matters had not improved while we had been away. Matters were, if anything, deteriorating.
'The tide is coming in, sir,' one of the soldiers was saying to the colonel. 'It will reach the caves in less than an hour.'
'Trapping the men inside, I take it,' the colonel deduced.
'That's not the worst of it, sir,' the soldier continued. 'If the water reaches the explosives then they will be rendered useless. All our work will be wasted, sir.'
The colonel hobbled over to our group to explain the situation.
'As I see it, we have no choice,' he said. 'I hate to do it, but if the Doctor and the Inspector haven't returned by the time the tide comes in then I shall have to give the order to detonate the explosives anyway.'
'It's what he would have wanted,' I agreed. My heart sank in my chest as I realised that I was probably condemning my friend to death.
'How can you say that?' Constance demanded. 'Of course he wouldn't want to die. We can't do this.'
Emily placed a restraining hand on her daughter's shoulder. 'Come now, child,' she said, 'you know that isn't true. What is the point of all this, of all the Doctor has done for us, if we refuse to see it through to the end?'
'I know,' Constance confessed, burying her head in her mother's chest, 'it's just '
She could not complete the sentence, instead bursting into sobs which wracked her tiny frame.
'There, there, child,' Emily said as she held her daughter close.
They say that time is uniform, that one second is a constant measurement that does not vary, that each hour is the same length as the next. This is not the case. That next hour, as we stood on the hill watching the gradual approach of the sea, lasted a lifetime. I glanced across at Constance and saw her forehead creased in concern. I wondered if I looked the same. Even Emily was wringing her hands nervously.
Finally, the colonel turned to the soldiers. 'Make your final preparations,' he said.
'Very good, sir.'
The sea was now lapping at the base of the cliff.
'Everything is ready on your command, sir,' the soldier announced.
'Good job,' the colonel replied. The colonel turned to me. 'We cannot wait any longer, Mrs Harker.'
I merely nodded. I had not the strength for anything else.
The colonel turned back to the soldiers.
'On my mark,' he began.
'Wait!' Constance cried.
As one we turned and looked down at the caves. There, emerging from the cave mouth, was the Doctor. He had lost his jacket and one arm hung limply at his side.
'He's got nowhere to go,' Emily observed.
It was true, the rising tide had cut off his escape from the cave.
'Doctor!' I cried.
He glanced up at me and grinned a madman's smile.
Then he dived into the surf.
'Now, soldier!' Colonel Ashforth shouted.
The soldiers detonated the explosives.
There was a muffled rumble deep beneath us and we watched part of the cliff face slide away. Great chunks of rock plunged among the waves. Of the Doctor there was no sign.
We waited. The tremors subsided and the scene took on an eerie stillness. No one spoke. Not even the seagulls gave voice to their thoughts. It seemed as if the whole world held its breath. We waited.
'He's drowned, hasn't he,' Constance wailed, finally breaking the silence. 'After all that he's gone and drowned himself.'
I was inclined to agree. Then I saw something. A dark shape on the rocks.
'Wait, look,' I said, 'down there.'
'He's alive,' Constance cried jubilantly.
'Now, let's not be too hasty,' the colonel said and I had to admit that I too had my doubts.
'Well, isn't someone going to go down there and fetch him?' Emily demanded imperiously.
The colonel began to hobble downwards, but with his wooden-leg he could not gain purchase on the rocks.
'Oh, stay here the lot of you,' Emily complained. 'I'll do it.'
I watched in amazement as Emily Percival hitched up her skirts and skittered down the rocks with and agility I had not previously believed she possessed. She scrambled back upwards more slowly, supporting the Doctor with one arm.
He was alive and I rushed to him, narrowly beating Constance, and embraced him.
'My dear Mrs Percival, you are full of surprises,' the Doctor said.
'What that?' Emily said. 'You didn't think my husband trekked around Africa on his own, did you? And I sincerely hope you didn't think all of those trophies were his either.'
'The thought never crossed my mind,' the Doctor replied.
'You know,' Emily said, 'I think I'm beginning to realise what my daughter sees in you. The sooner you leave the better. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.'
'Of course,' the Doctor replied. 'Um, Mina, would you mind not squeezing me so tight. You're hurting my arm.'
I released him and saw that his shirt-sleeve was covered with blood.
'What happened to you?' I asked.
'The inspector and I had a little disagreement,' the Doctor explained.
'Yes, he stayed behind,' the Doctor answered. 'It was what he wanted. Now they will never have to be apart ever again.' His voice took on a haunted quality, but then he smiled that perfect smile of his. 'Come on, I think it's time to go home.'
As we slowly descended the hill I turned to take one last look at the abbey. There, high up in one of the windows, a woman in white was waving at me.
* * *
I went with the Doctor to his funeral. After the service we stood in the churchyard admiring the flowers. The Doctor's arm was still in a sling.
'Arthur was a great man,' the Doctor said, 'and like all great men his work will be remembered long after his death. That's what memory's for really, to remind us of the good things in life.'
I remembered going to see one of Mr Sullivan's operettas with Jonathan. He had hated it, deriding it as puerile nonsense, so naturally I had had to hate it to. Thinking back on it, however, did bring back some pleasant memories.
'Doctor,' I began, 'it has been a while since I last heard his work.'
'Hmm, now that you mention it I haven't heard any good Gilbert and Sullivan lately either,' the Doctor mused. 'I'm sure that somewhere, somewhen, someone is playing The Mikado. Shall we go and find out?'
He crooked his elbow and I took it. Arm in arm we left the churchyard behind.
Mina Harker was created by Bram Stoker.
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