Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker


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Page 1

Mr. Salton gave instructions to have ready a carriage early on the
important 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 the
ship, which would be a new experience for him, or, if his guest should
prefer it, at a hotel. In either case they would start in the early
morning for home. He had given instructions to his bailiff to send the
postillion carriage on to Southampton, to be ready for their journey
home, 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 in
Australia, should see something of rural England on the drive. He had
plenty of young horses of his own breeding and breaking, and could depend
on a journey memorable to the young man. The luggage would be sent on by
rail to Stafford, where one of his carts would meet it. Mr. Salton,
during the journey to Southampton, often wondered if his grand-nephew was
as much excited as he was at the idea of meeting so near a relation for
the first time; and it was with an effort that he controlled himself. The
endless railway lines and switches round the Southampton Docks fired his
anxiety afresh.

As the train drew up on the dockside, he was getting his hand traps
together, when the carriage door was wrenched open and a young man jumped
in.

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

The meeting so auspiciously begun proceeded well. Adam, seeing that the
old man was interested in the novelty of the ship, suggested that he
should stay the night on board, and that he would himself be ready to
start at any hour and go anywhere that the other suggested. This
affectionate willingness to fall in with his own plans quite won the old
man's heart. He warmly accepted the invitation, and at once they became
not only on terms of affectionate relationship, but almost like old
friends. 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 dreams
throughout his wanderings and solitude, and the promise of a fresh and
adventurous life. It was not long before the old man accepted him to
full relationship by calling him by his Christian name. After a long
talk on affairs of interest, they retired to the cabin, which the elder
was to share. Richard Salton put his hands affectionately on the boy's
shoulders--though Adam was in his twenty-seventh year, he was a boy, and
always would be, to his grand-uncle.

"I am so glad to find you as you are, my dear boy--just such a young man
as I had always hoped for as a son, in the days when I still had such
hopes. However, that is all past. But thank God there is a new life to
begin for both of us. To you must be the larger part--but there is still
time for some of it to be shared in common. I have waited till we should
have seen each other to enter upon the subject; for I thought it better
not to tie up your young life to my old one till we should have
sufficient personal knowledge to justify such a venture. Now I can, so
far as I am concerned, enter into it freely, since from the moment my
eyes rested on you I saw my son--as he shall be, God willing--if he
chooses 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 voice
trembled. Then, after a long silence between them, he went on: "When I
heard you were coming I made my will. It was well that your interests
should 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, or
the 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 have
a long drive before us. I hope you don't mind driving? I was going to
have the old travelling carriage in which my grandfather, your
great-grand-uncle, went to Court when William IV. was king. It is all
right--they built well in those days--and it has been kept in perfect
order. But I think I have done better: I have sent the carriage in which
I travel myself. The horses are of my own breeding, and relays of them
shall take us all the way. I hope you like horses? They have long been
one of my greatest interests in life."

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

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 16th Jul 2019, 12:27