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The Secret of the Growing Gold


Bram Stoker


When Margaret Delandre went to live at Brent's Rock the whole

neighbourhood awoke to the pleasure of an entirely new scandal.

Scandals in connection with either the Delandre family or the

Brents of Brent's Rock, were not few; and if the secret history of

the county had been written in full both names would have been

found well represented. It is true that the status of each was so

different that they might have belonged to different continents-or

to different worlds for the matter of that-for hitherto their orbits

had never crossed. The Brents were accorded by the whole section of

the country an unique social dominance, and had ever held themselves

as high above the yeoman class to which Margaret Delandre belonged,

as a blue-blooded Spanish hidalgo out-tops his peasant tenantry.


   The Delandres had an ancient record and were proud of it in their

way as the Brents were of theirs. But the family had never risen

above yeomanry; and although they had been once well-to-do in the

good old times of foreign wars and protection, their fortunes had

withered under the scorching of the free trade sun and the "piping

times of peace." They had, as the elder members used to assert,

"stuck to the land," with the result that they had taken root in it,

body and soul. In fact, they, having chosen the life of vegetables,

had flourished as vegetation does-blossomed and thrived in the good

season and suffered in the bad. Their holding, Dander's Croft, seemed

to have been worked out, and to be typical of the family which had

inhabited it. The latter had declined generation after generation,

sending out now and again some abortive shoot of unsatisfied energy

in the shape of a soldier or sailor, who had worked his way to the

minor grades of the services and had there stopped, cut short either

from unheeding gallantry in action or from that destroying cause to

men without breeding or youthful care-the recognition of a position

above them which they feel unfitted to fill. So, little by little,

the family dropped lower and lower, the men brooding and dissatisfied,

and drinking themselves into the grave, the women drudging at home,

or marrying beneath them-or worse. In process of time all disappeared,

leaving only two in the Croft, Wykham Delandre and his sister Margaret.

The man and woman seemed to have inherited in masculine and feminine form respectively the evil tendency of their race, sharing in common the principles, though manifesting them in different ways, of sullen passion, voluptuousness and recklessness.


   The history of the Brents had been something similar, but showing

the causes of decadence in their aristocratic and not their plebeian

forms. They, too, had sent their shoots to the wars; but their

positions had been different, and they had often attained honour-for

without flaw they were gallant, and brave deeds were done by them

before the selfish dissipation which marked them had sapped their

vigour.


   The present head of the family-if family it could now be called

when one remained of the direct line-was Geoffrey Brent. He was

almost a type of a worn-out race, manifesting in some ways its

most brilliant qualities, and in others its utter degradation. He

might be fairly compared with some of those antique Italian nobles

whom the painters have preserved to us with their courage, their

unscrupulousness, their refinement of lust and cruelty-the voluptuary

actual with the fiend potential. He was certainly handsome, with that

dark, aquiline, commanding beauty which women so generally recognise as dominant. With men he was distant and cold; but such a bearing never deters womankind. The inscrutable laws of sex have so arranged that even a timid woman is not afraid of a fierce and haughty man.And so it was that there was hardly a woman of any kind or degree, who lived within view of Brent's Rock, who did not cherish some form of secret admiration for the handsome wastrel. The category was a wide one, for Brent's Rock rose up steeply from the midst of a level region and for a circuit of a hundred miles it lay on the horizon,

with its high old towers and steep roofs cutting the level edge of

wood and hamlet, and far-scattered mansions.


   So long as Geoffrey Brent confined his dissipations to London and

Paris and Vienna-anywhere out of sight and sound of his home-opinion

was silent. It is easy to listen to far off echoes unmoved, and we

can treat them with disbelief, or scorn, or disdain, or whatever

attitude of coldness may suit our purpose. But when the scandal came

close to home it was another matter; and the feelings of independence

and integrity which is in people of every community which is not

utterly spoiled, asserted itself and demanded that condemnation

should be expressed. Still there was a certain reticence in all, and

no more notice was taken of the existing facts than was absolutely

necessary. Margaret Delandre bore herself so fearlessly and so

openly-she accepted her position as the justified companion of

Geoffrey Brent so naturally that people came to believe that she

was secretly married to him, and therefore thought it wiser to hold

their tongues lest time should justify her and also make her an

active enemy.


   The one person who, by his interference, could have settled all

doubts was debarred by circumstances from interfering in the matter.

Wykham Delandre had quarrelled with his sister-or perhaps it was

that she had quarrelled with him-and they were on terms not merely

of armed neutrality but of bitter hatred. The quarrel had been

antecedent to Margaret going to Brent's Rock. She and Wykham had

almost come to blows. There had certainly been threats on one side

and on the other; and in the end Wykham overcome with passion, had

ordered his sister to leave his house. She had risen straightway,

and, without waiting to pack up even her own personal belongings,

had walked out of the house. On the threshold she had paused for a

moment to hurl a bitter threat at Wykham that he would rue in shame

and despair to the last hour of his life his act of that day. Some

weeks had since passed; and it was understood in the neighbourhood

that Margaret had gone to London, when she suddenly appeared driving

out with Geoffrey Brent, and the entire neighbourhood knew before

nightfall that she had taken up her abode at the Rock. It was no

subject of surprise that Brent had come back unexpectedly, for such

was his usual custom. Even his own servants never knew when to expect him, for there was a private door, of which he alone had the key, by which he sometimes entered without anyone in the house being aware of his coming. This was his usual method of appearing after a long absence.


   Wykham Delandre was furious at the news. He vowed vengeance-and

to keep his mind level with his passion drank deeper than ever. He tried several times to see his sister, but she contemptuously refused to meet him. He tried to have an interview with Brent and was refused by him also. Then he tried to stop him in the road, but without avail, for Geoffrey was not a man to be stopped against his will. Several actual encounters took place between the two men, and many more were threatened and avoided. At last Wykham Delandre settled down to a morose, vengeful acceptance of the situation.


   Neither Margaret nor Geoffrey was of a pacific temperament, and

it was not long before there began to be quarrels between them. One

thing would lead to another, and wine flowed freely at Brent's Rock.

Now and again the quarrels would assume a bitter aspect, and threats

would be exchanged in uncompromising language that fairly awed the

listening servants. But such quarrels generally ended where domestic

altercations do, in reconciliation, and in a mutual respect for the

fighting qualities proportionate to their manifestation. Fighting for

its own sake is found by a certain class of persons, all the world

over, to be a matter of absorbing interest, and there is no reason to

believe that domestic conditions minimise its potency. Geoffrey and

Margaret made occasional absences from Brent's Rock, and on each

of these occasions Wykham Delandre also absented himself; but as he

generally heard of the absence too late to be of any service, he

returned home each time in a more bitter and discontented frame of

mind than before.


   At last there came a time when the absence from Brent's Rock

became longer than before. Only a few days earlier there had been

a quarrel, exceeding in bitterness anything which had gone before;

but this, too, had been made up, and a trip on the Continent had

been mentioned before the servants. After a few days Wykham Delandre also went away, and it was some weeks before he returned. It was noticed that he was full of some new importance-satisfaction,

exaltation-they hardly knew how to call it. He went straightway to

Brent's Rock, and demanded to see Geoffrey Brent, and on being told

that he had not yet returned, said, with a grim decision which the

servants noted:


   "I shall come again. My news is solid-it can wait!" and turned

away. Week after week went by, and month after month; and then there

came a rumour, certified later on, that an accident had occurred

in the Zermatt valley. Whilst crossing a dangerous pass the carriage

containing an English lady and the driver had fallen over a

precipice, the gentleman of the party, Mr. Geoffrey Brent, having

been fortunately saved as he had been walking up the hill to ease the

horses. He gave information, and search was made. The broken rail,

the excoriated roadway, the marks where the horses had struggled

on the decline before finally pitching over into the torrent-all

told the sad tale. It was a wet season, and there had been much snow

in the winter, so that the river was swollen beyond its usual volume,

and the eddies of the stream were packed with ice. All search was

made, and finally the wreck of the carriage and the body of one horse

were found in an eddy of the river. Later on the body of the driver

was found on the sandy, torrent-swept waste near Tasch; but the body

of the lady, like that of the other horse, had quite disappeared, and

was-what was left of it by that time-whirling amongst the eddies of

the Rhone on its way down to the Lake of Geneva.


   Wykham Delandre made all the enquiries possible, but could not

find any trace of the missing woman. He found, however, in the books

of the various hotels the name of "Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Brent." And

he had a stone erected at Zermatt to his sister's memory, under her

married name, and a tablet put up in the church at Bretten, the

parish in which both Brent's Rock and Dander's Croft were situated.


   There was a lapse of nearly a year, after the excitement of the

matter had worn away, and the whole neighbourhood had gone on its

accustomed way. Brent was still absent, and Delandre more drunken,

more morose, and more revengeful than before.


   Then there was a new excitement. Brent's Rock was being made ready

for a new mistress. It was officially announced by Geoffrey himself

in a letter to the Vicar, that he had been married some months before

to an Italian lady, and that they were then on their way home. Then

a small army of workmen invaded the house; and hammer and plane

sounded, and a general air of size and paint pervaded the atmosphere.

One wing of the old house, the south, was entirely re-done; and then

the great body of the workmen departed, leaving only materials for

the doing of the old hall when Geoffrey Brent should have returned,

for he had directed that the decoration was only to be done under

his own eyes. He had brought with him accurate drawings of a hall in

the house of his bride's father, for he wished to reproduce for her

the place to which she had been accustomed. As the moulding had all

to be re-done, some scaffolding poles and boards were brought in and

laid on one side of the great hall, and also a great wooden tank or

box for mixing the lime, which was laid in bags beside it.


   When the new mistress of Brent's Rock arrived the bells of the

church rang out, and there was a general jubilation. She was a

beautiful creature, full of the poetry and fire and passion of the

South; and the few English words which she had learned were spoken

in such a sweet and pretty broken way that she won the hearts of the

people almost as much by the music of her voice as by the melting

beauty of her dark eyes.


   Geoffrey Brent seemed more happy than he had ever before appeared;

but there was a dark, anxious look on his face that was new to those

who knew him of old, and he started at times as though at some noise

that was unheard by others.


   And so months passed and the whisper grew that at last Brent's

Rock was to have an heir. Geoffrey was very tender to his wife, and

the new bond between them seemed to soften him. He took more interest in his tenants and their needs than he had ever done; and works of charity on his part as well as on his sweet young wife's were not

lacking. He seemed to have set all his hopes on the child that was

coming, and as he looked deeper into the future the dark shadow that

had come over his face seemed to die gradually away.


   All the time Wykham Delandre nursed his revenge. Deep in his heart

had grown up a purpose of vengeance which only waited an opportunity

to crystallise and take a definite shape. His vague idea was somehow

centred in the wife of Brent, for he knew that he could strike him

best through those he loved, and the coming time seemed to hold in

its womb the opportunity for which he longed. One night he sat alone

in the living-room of his house. It had once been a handsome room in

its way, but time and neglect had done their work and it was now

little better than a ruin, without dignity or picturesqueness of any

kind. He had been drinking heavily for some time and was more than

half stupefied. He thought he heard a noise as of someone at the door

and looked up. Then he called half savagely to come in; but there was

no response. With a muttered blasphemy he renewed his potations.

Presently he forgot all around him, sank into a daze, but suddenly

awoke to see standing before him some one or something like a

battered, ghostly edition of his sister. For a few moments there

came upon him a sort of fear. The woman before him, with distorted

features and burning eyes seemed hardly human, and the only thing

that seemed a reality of his sister, as she had been, was her wealth

of golden hair, and this was now streaked with grey. She eyed her

brother with a long, cold stare; and he, too, as he looked and began

to realise the actuality of her presence, found the hatred of her

which he had had, once again surging up in his heart. All the

brooding passion of the past year seemed to find a voice at once

as he asked her: -


   "Why are you here? You're dead and buried."


   "I am here, Wykham Delandre, for no love of you, but because I

hate another even more than I do you!" A great passion blazed in

her eyes.


   "Him?" he asked, in so fierce a whisper that even the woman was

for an instant startled till she regained her calm.


   "Yes, him!" she answered. "But make no mistake, my revenge is my

own; and I merely use you to help me to it." Wykham asked suddenly:


   "Did he marry you?"


   The woman's distorted face broadened out in a ghastly attempt

at a smile. It was a hideous mockery, for the broken features and

seamed scars took strange shapes and strange colours, and queer

lines of white showed out as the straining muscles pressed on the

old cicatrices.


   "So you would like to know! It would please your pride to feel

that your sister was truly married! Well, you shall not know. That

was my revenge on you, and I do not mean to change it by a hair's

breadth. I have come here to-night simply to let you know that I

am alive, so that if any violence be done me where I am going there

may be a witness."


   "Where are you going?" demanded her brother.


   "That is my affair! and I have not the least intention of letting

you know!" Wykham stood up, but the drink was on him and he reeled

and fell. As he lay on the floor he announced his intention of

following his sister; and with an outburst of splenetic humour told

her that he would follow her through the darkness by the light of

her hair, and of her beauty. At this she turned on him, and said

that there were others beside him that would rue her hair and her

beauty too. "As he will," she hissed; "for the hair remains though

the beauty be gone. When he withdrew the lynch-pin and sent us over

the precipice into the torrent, he had little thought of my beauty.

Perhaps his beauty would be scarred like mine were he whirled, as I

was, among the rocks of the Visp, and frozen on the ice pack in the

drift of the river. But let him beware! His time is coming!" and

with a fierce gesture she flung open the door and passed out into

the night.


                             ***


   Later on that night, Mrs. Brent, who was but half-asleep,

became suddenly awake and spoke to her husband:


   "Geoffrey, was not that the click of a lock somewhere below

our window?"


   But Geoffrey-though she thought that he, too, had started at the

noise-seemed sound asleep, and breathed heavily. Again Mrs. Brent

dozed; but this time awoke to the fact that her husband had arisen

and was partially dressed. He was deadly pale, and when the light

of the lamp which he had in his hand fell on his face, she was

frightened at the look in his eyes.


   "What is it, Geoffrey? What dost thou?" she asked.


   "Hush! little one," he answered, in a strange, hoarse voice. "Go

to sleep. I am restless, and wish to finish some work I left undone."


   "Bring it here, my husband," she said; "I am lonely and I fear

when thou art away."


   For reply he merely kissed her and went out, closing the door

behind him. She lay awake for awhile, and then nature asserted

itself, and she slept.


   Suddenly she started broad awake with the memory in her ears of

a smothered cry from somewhere not far off. She jumped up and ran to

the door and listened, but there was no sound. She grew alarmed for

her husband, and called out: "Geoffrey! Geoffrey!"


   After a few moments the door of the great hall opened, and

Geoffrey appeared at it, but without his lamp.


   "Hush!" he said, in a sort of whisper, and his voice was harsh and

stern. "Hush! Get to bed! I am working, and must not be disturbed. Go

to sleep, and do not wake the house!"


   With a chill in her heart-for the harshness of her husband's

voice was new to her-she crept back to bed and lay there trembling,

too frightened to cry, and listened to every sound. There was a long

pause of silence, and then the sound of some iron implement striking

muffled blows! Then there came a clang of a heavy stone falling,

followed by a muffled curse. Then a dragging sound, and then more

noise of stone on stone. She lay all the while in an agony of fear,

and her heart beat dreadfully. She heard a curious sort of scraping

sound; and then there was silence. Presently the door opened gently,

and Geoffrey appeared. His wife pretended to be asleep; but through

her eyelashes she saw him wash from his hands something white that

looked like lime.


   In the morning he made no allusion to the previous night, and

she was afraid to ask any question.


   From that day there seemed some shadow over Geoffrey Brent. He

neither ate nor slept as he had been accustomed, and his former

habit of turning suddenly as though someone were speaking from behind him revived. The old hall seemed to have some kind of fascination for him. He used to go there many times in the day, but grew impatient if anyone, even his wife, entered it. When the builder's foreman came to inquire about continuing his work Geoffrey was out driving; the man went into the hall, and when Geoffrey returned the servant told him of his arrival and where he was. With a frightful oath he pushed the servant aside and hurried up to the old hall. The workman met him almost at the door; and as Geoffrey burst into the room he ran

against him. The man apologised:


   "Beg pardon, sir, but I was just going out to make some enquiries.

I directed twelve sacks of lime to be sent here, but I see there are

only ten."


   "Damn the ten sacks and the twelve too!" was the ungracious and

incomprehensible rejoinder.


   The workman looked surprised, and tried to turn the conversation.


   "I see, sir, there is a little matter which our people must have

done; but the governor will of course see it set right at his own

cost."


   "What do you mean?"


   "That 'ere 'arth-stone, sir: Some idiot must have put a scaffold

pole on it and cracked it right down the middle, and it's thick

enough you'd think to stand hanythink." Geoffrey was silent for quite

a minute, and then said in a constrained voice and with much gentler

manner:


   "Tell your people that I am not going on with the work in the hall

at present. I want to leave it as it is for a while longer."


   "All right sir. I'll send up a few of our chaps to take away these

poles and lime bags and tidy the place up a bit."


   "No! No!" said Geoffrey, "leave them where they are. I shall send

and tell you when you are to get on with the work." So the foreman

went away, and his comment to his master was:


   "I'd send in the bill, sir, for the work already done. 'Pears to

me that money's a little shaky in that quarter."


   Once or twice Delandre tried to stop Brent on the road, and, at

last, finding that he could not attain his object rode after the

carriage, calling out:


   "What has become of my sister, your wife?" Geoffrey lashed his

horses into a gallop, and the other, seeing from his white face and

from his wife's collapse almost into a faint that this object was

attained, rode away with a scowl and a laugh.


   That night when Geoffrey went into the hall he passed over to

the great fireplace, and all at once started back with a smothered

cry. Then with an effort he pulled himself together and went away,

returning with a light. He bent down over the broken hearth-stone to

see if the moonlight falling through the storied window had in any

way deceived him. Then with a groan of anguish he sank to his knees.


   There, sure enough, through the crack in the broken stone were

protruding a multitude of threads of golden hair just tinged with

grey!


   He was disturbed by a noise at the door, and looking round, saw

his wife standing in the doorway. In the desperation of the moment

he took action to prevent discovery, and lighting a match at the

lamp, stooped down and burned away the hair that rose through the

broken stone. Then rising nonchalantly as he could, he pretended

surprise at seeing his wife beside him.


   For the next week he lived in an agony; for, whether by accident

or design, he could not find himself alone in the hall for any

length of time. At each visit the hair had grown afresh through the

crack, and he had to watch it carefully lest his terrible secret

should be discovered. He tried to find a receptacle for the body of

the murdered woman outside the house, but someone always interrupted

him; and once, when he was coming out of the private doorway, he was

met by his wife, who began to question him about it, and manifested

surprise that she should not have before noticed the key which he now

reluctantly showed her. Geoffrey dearly and passionately loved his

wife, so that any possibility of her discovering his dread secrets,

or even of doubting him, filled him with anguish; and after a couple

of days had passed, he could not help coming to the conclusion that,

at least, she suspected something.


   That very evening she came into the hall after her drive and found

him there sitting moodily by the deserted fireplace. She spoke to him

directly.


   "Geoffrey, I have been spoken to by that fellow Delandre, and

he says horrible things. He tells to me that a week ago his sister

returned to his house, the wreck and ruin of her former self, with

only her golden hair as of old, and announced some fell intention.

He asked me where she is-and oh, Geoffrey, she is dead, she is dead!

So how can she have returned? Oh! I am in dread, and I know not

where to turn!"


   For answer, Geoffrey burst into a torrent of blasphemy which made

her shudder. He cursed Delandre and his sister and all their kind,

and in especial he hurled curse after curse on her golden hair.


   "Oh, hush! hush!" she said, and was then silent, for she feared

her husband when she saw the evil effect of his humour. Geoffrey in

the torrent of his anger stood up and moved away from the hearth;

but suddenly stopped as he saw a new look of terror in his wife's

eyes. He followed their glance, and then he, too, shuddered-for

there on the broken hearth-stone lay a golden streak as the points

of the hair rose through the crack.


   "Look, look!" she shrieked. "It is some ghost of the dead! Come

away-come away!" and seizing her husband by the wrist with the frenzy

of madness, she pulled him from the room.


   That night she was in a raging fever. The doctor of the district

attended her at once, and special aid was telegraphed for to London.

Geoffrey was in despair, and in his anguish at the danger of his

young wife almost forgot his own crime and its consequences. In the

evening the doctor had to leave to attend to others; but he left

Geoffrey in charge of his wife. His last words were:


   "Remember, you must humour her till I come in the morning, or

till some other doctor has her case in hand. What you have to dread

is another attack of emotion. See that she is kept warm. Nothing

more can be done."


   Late in the evening, when the rest of the household had retired,

Geoffrey's wife got up from her bed and called to her husband.


   "Come!" she said. "Come to the old hall! I know where the gold

comes from! I want to see it grow!"


   Geoffrey would fain have stopped her, but he feared for her life

or reason on the one hand, and lest in a paroxysm she should shriek

out her terrible suspicion, and seeing that it was useless to try

to prevent her, wrapped a warm rug around her and went with her to

the old hall. When they entered, she turned and shut the door and

locked it.


   "We want no strangers amongst us three to-night!" she whispered

with a wan smile.


   "We three! nay we are but two," said Geoffrey with a shudder; he

feared to say more.


   "Sit here," said his wife as she put out the light. "Sit here

by the hearth and watch the gold growing. The silver moonlight is

jealous! See it steals along the floor towards the gold-our gold!"

Geoffrey looked with growing horror, and saw that during the hours

that had passed the golden hair had protruded further through the

broken hearth-stone. He tried to hide it by placing his feet over

the broken place; and his wife, drawing her chair beside him, leant

over and laid her head on his shoulder.


   "Now do not stir, dear," she said; "let us sit still and watch.

We shall find the secret of the growing gold!" He passed his arm

round her and sat silent; and as the moonlight stole along the floor

she sank to sleep.


   He feared to wake her; and so sat silent and miserable as the

hours stole away.


   Before his horror-struck eyes the golden-hair from the broken

stone grew and grew; and as it increased, so his heart got colder

and colder, till at last he had not power to stir, and sat with

eyes full of terror watching his doom.


***


   In the morning when the London doctor came, neither Geoffrey

nor his wife could be found. Search was made in all the rooms, but

without avail. As a last resource the great door of the old hall

was broken open, and those who entered saw a grim and sorry sight.


   There by the deserted hearth Geoffrey Brent and his young wife

sat cold and white and dead. Her face was peaceful, and her eyes were

closed in sleep; but his face was a sight that made all who saw it

shudder, for there was on it a look of unutterable horror. The eyes

were open and stared glassily at his feet, which were twined with

tresses of golden hair, streaked with grey, which came through the

broken hearth-stone.



*End*



Bram Stoker's short-story, "The Secret of Growing Gold" was published in the posthumous collection

Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914)


"The Secret of Growing Gold"

Full text below