Reading Books on PopNovel APP

The Lair of the White Worm

The Lair of the White Worm

Author:Bram Stoker


Adam Salton sauntered into the Empire Club, Sydney, and found awaiting him a letter from his grand-uncle. He had first heard from the old gentleman less than a year before, when Richard Salton had claimed kinship, stating that he had been unable to write earlier, as he had found it very...
Show All▼

  Adam Salton sauntered into the Empire Club, Sydney, and found awaitinghim a letter from his grand-uncle. He had first heard from the oldgentleman less than a year before, when Richard Salton had claimedkinship, stating that he had been unable to write earlier, as he hadfound it very difficult to trace his grand-nephew's address. Adam wasdelighted and replied cordially; he had often heard his father speak ofthe older branch of the family with whom his people had long lost touch.Some interesting correspondence had ensued. Adam eagerly opened theletter which had only just arrived, and conveyed a cordial invitation tostop with his grand-uncle at Lesser Hill, for as long a time as he couldspare.

  "Indeed," Richard Salton went on, "I am in hopes that you will make yourpermanent home here. You see, my dear boy, you and I are all that remainof our race, and it is but fitting that you should succeed me when thetime comes. In this year of grace, 1860, I am close on eighty years ofage, and though we have been a long-lived race, the span of life cannotbe prolonged beyond reasonable bounds. I am prepared to like you, and tomake your home with me as happy as you could wish. So do come at once onreceipt of this, and find the welcome I am waiting to give you. I send,in case such may make matters easy for you, a banker's draft for 200pounds. Come soon, so that we may both of us enjoy many happy daystogether. If you are able to give me the pleasure of seeing you, send meas soon as you can a letter telling me when to expect you. Then when youarrive at Plymouth or Southampton or whatever port you are bound for,wait on board, and I will meet you at the earliest hour possible."

  Old Mr. Salton was delighted when Adam's reply arrived and sent a groomhot-foot to his crony, Sir Nathaniel de Salis, to inform him that hisgrand-nephew was due at Southampton on the twelfth of June.

  Mr. Salton gave instructions to have ready a carriage early on theimportant day, to start for Stafford, where he would catch the 11.40 a.m.train. He would stay that night with his grand-nephew, either on theship, which would be a new experience for him, or, if his guest shouldprefer it, at a hotel. In either case they would start in the earlymorning for home. He had given instructions to his bailiff to send thepostillion carriage on to Southampton, to be ready for their journeyhome, and to arrange for relays of his own horses to be sent on at once.He intended that his grand-nephew, who had been all his life inAustralia, should see something of rural England on the drive. He hadplenty of young horses of his own breeding and breaking, and could dependon a journey memorable to the young man. The luggage would be sent on byrail to Stafford, where one of his carts would meet it. Mr. Salton,during the journey to Southampton, often wondered if his grand-nephew wasas much excited as he was at the idea of meeting so near a relation forthe first time; and it was with an effort that he controlled himself. Theendless railway lines and switches round the Southampton Docks fired hisanxiety afresh.

  As the train drew up on the dockside, he was getting his hand trapstogether, when the carriage door was wrenched open and a young man jumpedin.

  "How are you, uncle? I recognised you from the photo you sent me! Iwanted to meet you as soon as I could, but everything is so strange to methat I didn't quite know what to do. However, here I am. I am glad tosee you, sir. I have been dreaming of this happiness for thousands ofmiles; now I find that the reality beats all the dreaming!" As he spokethe old man and the young one were heartily wringing each other's hands.

  The meeting so auspiciously begun proceeded well. Adam, seeing that theold man was interested in the novelty of the ship, suggested that heshould stay the night on board, and that he would himself be ready tostart at any hour and go anywhere that the other suggested. Thisaffectionate willingness to fall in with his own plans quite won the oldman's heart. He warmly accepted the invitation, and at once they becamenot only on terms of affectionate relationship, but almost like oldfriends. The heart of the old man, which had been empty for so long,found a new delight. The young man found, on landing in the old country,a welcome and a surrounding in full harmony with all his dreamsthroughout his wanderings and solitude, and the promise of a fresh andadventurous life. It was not long before the old man accepted him tofull relationship by calling him by his Christian name. After a longtalk on affairs of interest, they retired to the cabin, which the elderwas to share. Richard Salton put his hands affectionately on the boy'sshoulders--though Adam was in his twenty-seventh year, he was a boy, andalways would be, to his grand-uncle.

  "I am so glad to find you as you are, my dear boy--just such a young manas I had always hoped for as a son, in the days when I still had suchhopes. However, that is all past. But thank God there is a new life tobegin for both of us. To you must be the larger part--but there is stilltime for some of it to be shared in common. I have waited till we shouldhave seen each other to enter upon the subject; for I thought it betternot to tie up your young life to my old one till we should havesufficient personal knowledge to justify such a venture. Now I can, sofar as I am concerned, enter into it freely, since from the moment myeyes rested on you I saw my son--as he shall be, God willing--if hechooses such a course himself."

  "Indeed I do, sir--with all my heart!"

  "Thank you, Adam, for that." The old, man's eyes filled and his voicetrembled. Then, after a long silence between them, he went on: "When Iheard you were coming I made my will. It was well that your interestsshould be protected from that moment on. Here is the deed--keep it,Adam. All I have shall belong to you; and if love and good wishes, orthe memory of them, can make life sweeter, yours shall be a happy one.Now, my dear boy, let us turn in. We start early in the morning and havea long drive before us. I hope you don't mind driving? I was going tohave the old travelling carriage in which my grandfather, yourgreat-grand-uncle, went to Court when William IV. was king. It is allright--they built well in those days--and it has been kept in perfectorder. But I think I have done better: I have sent the carriage in whichI travel myself. The horses are of my own breeding, and relays of themshall take us all the way. I hope you like horses? They have long beenone of my greatest interests in life."

  "I love them, sir, and I am happy to say I have many of my own. Myfather gave me a horse farm for myself when I was eighteen. I devotedmyself to it, and it has gone on. Before I came away, my steward gave mea memorandum that we have in my own place more than a thousand, nearlyall good."

  "I am glad, my boy. Another link between us."

  "Just fancy what a delight it will be, sir, to see so much of England--andwith you!"

  "Thank you again, my boy. I will tell you all about your future home andits surroundings as we go. We shall travel in old-fashioned state, Itell you. My grandfather always drove four-in-hand; and so shall we."

  "Oh, thanks, sir, thanks. May I take the ribbons sometimes?"

  "Whenever you choose, Adam. The team is your own. Every horse we use to-day is to be your own."

  "You are too generous, uncle!"

  "Not at all. Only an old man's selfish pleasure. It is not every daythat an heir to the old home comes back. And--oh, by the way . . . No,we had better turn in now--I shall tell you the rest in the morning."