The Secret of the Growing Gold by Bram Stoker
When Margaret Delandre went to live at Drent'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 t. 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
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
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 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 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 Ta'sch; 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 redone, 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 someone 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 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
'Damn the ten sacks and the twelve too!' was the ungracious and
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
'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. Tears 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 his 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
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
'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 v 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 point of the hair rose
though the crack.
'Look, look!' she shrieked. 'Is it 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
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 tonight!' 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
He feared to wake her; and so sat silent and miserable as the hours
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