The Mysteries of Heron Dyke_ A Novel of Incident. Volume 1 (of 3)
1. Page scan source: Google Books
MYSTERIES OF HERON DYKE.
A Novel of Incident.
By the Author of
"In the Dead of Night," "Brought to Light," etc.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
[All Rights Reserved.]
CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.
|I.||GILBERT DENISON'S WILL.|
|II.||MRS. CARLYON AT HOME.|
|III.||CAPTAIN LENNOX STARTLED.|
|IV.||HERON DYKE AND ITS INMATES.|
|V.||AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR.|
|VI.||ONE SNOWY NIGHT.|
|VII.||COMING TO DINNER.|
|VIII.||AT THE LILACS.|
|IX.||THE DOCTOR'S VERDICT.|
|X.||A DAY WITH PHILIP CLEEVE.|
|XI.||A VISIT FROM MRS. CARLYON.|
MYSTERIES OF HERON DYKE.
GILBERT DENISON'S WILL
The First Gentleman in Europe sat upon the throne of his fathers, and the Battleof Waterloo was a stupendous event that still dwelt freshly in men's memories, whenone bright August evening, Gilbert Denison, gentleman, of Heron Dyke, Norfolk, laydying in his lodgings in Bloomsbury Square, London.
He was a man of sixty, and, but a few days before he had been full of life, health,and energy. As he was riding into town from Enfield, where he had been visitingsome friends, his horse slipped, fell, and rolled heavily over its rider. All hadbeen done for Gilbert Denison that surgical skill could do, but to no avail. Hishours were numbered, and none knew that sad fact better than the dying man. Butin that strong, rugged, resolute face could not be read any dread of the approachingend. He was a Denison, and no Denison had ever been known to fear anything.
By the bedside sat his favourite nephew and heir, whose christian name was alsoGilbert. He was a young man of three or four and twenty, with a face which, allowingfor the difference in their years, was, both in character and features, singularlylike that of his uncle. Gilbert the younger was not, and never had been, a handsomeman; but his face was instinct with power: it expressed strength of will, and asort of high, resolute defiance of Fortune in whatever guise she might present herself.This young man carried a riding-whip in his hand; on a table near lay a pair ofbuckskin gloves. He wore Hessian boots with tassels, and a bottle-green riding-coatmuch braided and befrogged. His vest was of striped nankin, and he carried two watcheswith a huge bunch of seals pendant from each of them; while over the velvet collarof his coat fell his long hair. His throat was swathed in voluminous folds of softwhite muslin, tied in a huge bow, and fastened with a small brooch of brilliants.Our young gentleman evidently believed himself to be a diamond of the first water.
The August sun shone warmly into the room; through the half-open windows camethe hum of traffic in the streets; a vagrant breeze, playing at hide-and-seek amongthe heavy hangings of the bed, brought with it a faint odour of mignonette fromthe boxes on the broad window-sills outside. A hand of the dying man sought a handof his nephew, found it, and clasped it. The latter had been expressing his sorrowat finding his uncle in so sad a state, and his hopes that he would yet get overthe results of his accident.
"There is no hope of that, boy," said Mr. Denison. "A few hours more, and allwill be ended. But why should you be sorry? Is the heir ever really sorry when hesees the riches and power, which all his life he has been taught will one day behis, coming at last into his own grasp? Human nature's pretty much the same allthe world over."
"But I am indeed heartily sorry; believe me or not, uncle, as you like."
"I will try to believe you, boy," said Mr. Denison with a faint smile, "and that,perhaps, will answer the same purpose."
There was silence for a little while, then the sick man resumed.
"Nephew, this is a sad, wild, reckless life that you have been leading in Londonthese four years past."
"It is all that, uncle."
"Had I lived, what would the end of it have been?"
"Upon my word I don't know. Utter beggary I suppose."
"How much money are you possessed of?"
"I won a hundred guineas the other night at faro. I am not aware that I possessmuch beyond that."
"And your debts?"
The young man mused a moment.
"Really, I hardly know to a hundred or two. A thousand pounds would probablycover them, but I am not sure."
"A thousand pounds! And I have paid your debts twice over within the last fouryears!"
Gilbert the younger smiled.
"You see, uncle, the schedule I sent you each time was not a complete one. Idid not care to let you know every liability."
"You did not expect me to assist you again?"
"Certainly not, sir, after the last letter you wrote to me. I knew that whenyou wrote in that strain you meant what you said. I should never have troubled youagain."
"After your hundred guineas had gone--and they would last you but a very shorttime--what did you intend to do?"
"I had hardly thought seriously about it. Perhaps the fickle goddess might havesmiled on me again. If not, I should have done something or other. Probably enlisted."
"Enlisted as a common soldier?"
"As a common soldier. I don't know that I'm good for much else."
"But all that is changed now. Or at least you suppose so."
"I suppose nothing of the kind, sir," said the young man, hotly.
"As the master of Heron Dyke, with an income of six thousand a year, you willbe a very different personage from a needy young rake, haunting low gaming-tables,and trying to pick up a few guineas at faro from bigger simpletons than yourself."
Gilbert the younger sprang to his feet, his lips white and quivering with passion.
"Sir, you insult me," he said, "and with your permission I will retire."
And he took up his hat and gloves.
"Sit down, sir--sit down, I say," cried the elder man, sternly. "Don't imaginethat I have done with you yet."
"I have never been a frequenter of low gaming-houses; I have never cheated atcards in my life," said the young man, proudly.
"You would not have been a Denison if you had cheated at cards. But again I tellyou to sit down. I have much to say to you."
Gilbert the younger did as he was told, but with something of an ill grace. Inhis eyes there was a cold, hard look that had not been there before.
"Nephew, if you have not yet disgraced yourself--and I don't believe that youhave--you are on the high-road to do so. Has it ever entered your head to thinkwhither such mad doings as yours must inevitably land you?"
"I suppose that other men before me have sown their wild oats," said Gilbert,sulkily. "I have heard it said that you yourself, sir----"
"Never mind me. The question we have now to consider is that of your future.When you are master of Heron Dyke--if you ever do become its master--is it yourintention to make ducks and drakes of the old property, as you have made ducks anddrakes of the fortune left you by your father?"
"Really, sir, that is a question that has never entered into my thoughts."
"Then it is high time that it did enter them. I said just now 'If you ever dobecome the master of Heron Dyke.'"
"Is that intended as a threat, sir?" asked Gilbert, a little fiercely.
"Never mind what it is intended as, but listen to me. I presume you are quiteaware that it is in my power to leave Heron Dyke to anyone whom I may choose tonominate as my heir--to the greatest stranger in England if I like to do so?"
"I am of course aware that the property is not entailed," said the other, stiffly.
"And never has been entailed," said Mr. Denison with emphasis. "It has come downfrom heir male to heir male, for six hundred years. Providence having blessed mewith no children of my own, by the unwritten law of the family the property woulddescend in due sequence to you. But that unwritten law is one which I have fullpower to abrogate if I think well to do so. Such being the case, ask yourself thisquestion, Gilbert Denison: 'Judging from my past life for the last four years, amI a fit and proper person to become the representative of one of the oldest familiesin Norfolk? And would my uncle, taking into account all that he knows of me, bereally justified in putting me into that position?'"
The elder man paused, the younger one hung his head.
"I think, sir, that the best thing you can do will be to let me go headlong toruin after my own fashion," was all that he said.
"You will be good enough to remember that I have another nephew," resumed thedying man. "There is another Gilbert Denison as well as yourself."
"Aye! I'm not likely to forget him," said the other, savagely.
"So! You have met, have you? Well, from all I have heard of my brother Henry'sson, he is a clever, industrious, and well-conducted young man--one not given, assome people are, to wine-bibbing and all kinds of riotous living. Had you been killedin a brawl, which seems a by no means unlikely end for you to come to, he wouldhave stood as the next heir to Heron Dyke."
Young Gilbert writhed uneasily in his chair; the frown on his face grew darkeras he listened.
"And even as matters are," resumed his uncle, blandly, "even though you havenot yet come to an untimely end, it is quite competent for me to pass you over andnominate your cousin as my heir."
"Oh, sir, this is intolerable!" cried the young man, starting to his feet forthe second time. "To see you as you are, uncle, grieves me to the bottom of my heart--believeme or not. But I did not come here to be preached at. No man knows my faults andfollies so well as I know them myself. Leave your property as you may think wellto do so; but I hope and pray, sir, that you will never mention the subject to meagain."
He turned to quit the room, and had reached the door, when he heard his uncle'svoice call his name faintly. Looking back, he was startled to see the change whicha few seconds had wrought in the dying man. His eyes were glassy, the pallor ofhis face had deepened to a deathlike whiteness. Gilbert was seriously frightened:he thought the end had come. There was some brandy in a decanter on the little table.It was the work of a moment to pour some into a glass. Then, with the aid of a teaspoon,he inserted a small portion of the spirit between the teeth of the unconscious man.This he did again and again, and in a little while he was gratified by seeing somesigns of returning life. There was an Indian feather-fan on the chimney-piece. Withthis, having first flung the window wide open, he proceeded to fan his uncle's face.Presently Mr. Denison sighed deeply, and the light of consciousness flickered slowlyback into his eyes. He stared at his nephew for a moment as though wondering whomhe might be, smiled faintly, and pointed to a chair.
Gilbert took one of his uncle's clammy hands in his, chafed it gently for a littlewhile, and then pressed it to his lips. "You are better now, sir," he said.
"Yes, I am better. 'Twas nothing but a little faintness. I shall not die beforetomorrow night." He lay for a little while in silence, gazing up at the ceilinglike one in deep thought. Then he said, "And now about the property, Berty."
The young man thrilled at the word. His uncle had not called him by that namesince he was quite a lad. "Oh, sir, do not trouble yourself any more about the property,"he cried. "Whatever you have done, you have no doubt done for the best."
"But I want to tell you what I have done, and why I have done it. To-morrow Imay not have strength to do so." Young Gilbert moved uneasily in his chair. Thesick man noticed it. "Impatient of control as ever," he said, with a smile. "Headstrong--wilful--obstinate;you are a true Denison. Measure