Henry Wood.

The castle's heir : a novel in real life online

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" Oh, to be sure, you have just said
you have one by an early marriage.
Is he in this country ?"

" He is in this house ; he came with
me ; but I sent him to wait in the
drawing-room, until my first appear-
ance to you should be over. By
accepting him, your daughter's antici-
pated position will not be changed ;
she will still be Lady Dane. In point
of wealth she will be better off, for
Geoffry has an immense fortune from
his mother's side."

"A most flattering, munificent offer,"
cried the gratified Mr. Lester, " and
if Maria can only be brought to hear
reason and to entertain it — "

" Oh, don't fancy we would force
Miss Lester's inclination," interposed
Lord Dane ; " she must be allowed
to decide for herself You had better
let my son be inti'oduced to you. Ap-
perly, suppose you go and bring him

" I shall be most delighted, most
proud to make his acquaintance,"
spoke Mr. Lester, in the exuberance
of his spirits. "I wonder what Ap-
perly can be chuckling at," he thought,
looking after him ; " but I don't fancy
he ever did cordially like Herbert

Mr. Apperly went away chuckling,
and Mr. Apperly came back chuckling.
Lydney was with him ; and Lady
Adelaide, and Maria followed them.
Mr. Lester flew in a rage.

" You here ! You audacious man !
How dare you presume to intrude
into my house I I beg your pardon.
Lord Dane, but this man Lydney — "

Mr. Lester stopped, for Lord Dane
had linked his arm within the " auda-
cious man's," and was leading him

" An instant, George Lester," he
said ; " you shall tell me about Lyd-

ney when I have made the introduc-
tion. My son, Geoffry Dane."

The consternation of Mr. Lester
was pitiable.

''He! — he your son ?" he gasped,
when he could speak.

" My own and only son, — Geoffry
William Lydney Dane, styled the
Honorable. Ah, Lester I you and
Danesheld have been abusing him, — ■
have been laying all sorts of outra-
geous sins to his charge, deceived
into it by the calumniations of Her-
bert Dane ; but Maria was more
clear-sighted than any of you. She
saw that his nature was what it is, all
honor and goodness, and she trusted
him. I think you should give her to
him in recompense."

Lady Adelaide advanced, her cheek
flushed with emotion, as she addressed
her husband.

" George, I never urged you to
give her to Lord Dane — to Herbert ;
i do urge you to give her to Geoffry."

"I can but ask you to hold to your
pi'omise, sir," interrupted William,
looking at Mr. Lester with a sunny
smile. " You have vowed she shall
only marry to be Lady Dane, and the
sole chance of her becoming so — since
my father is not a candidate for her
hand — is by accepting me. Give her
to me," he yearningly pleaded. " I
will love and cherish her forever."

" I'll draw up the marriage settle-
ments for nothing, if you will say
yes," cried out Lawyer Apperly, in the
fullness of his satisfaction. " I could
walk a mile on my head, to-day."

"What in the world is the matter
with you all ?" exclaimed Mr. Lester,
above the confusion and in his own
emotion. "You are beseeching me
as if for some great boon, hard to
grant; / think the boon will be be-
stowed on me. Take her," he added
as he grasped William's hand ; " take
her, and keep her, and forgive me the

" And, now that that is all right, I
must be going," said Lord Dane."

" Where ?" asked Mr. Lester.

" Where ! why to show myself in



Daneshcld with my son, and to make
a few more calls on ft-iends, as<I have
made here, previously to holdinp; my
levee at the castle, i shall go about
it rather charily, Lester, lest timid
people may fancy it is a ghost coming
in. Herbert thought me one the
other night in the chapel-ruins. It
was the only time I ventured out,
while I was at Kavensbird's. The
night was fine, I felt unusually strong,
and I managed to walk as far as the
ruins. Herbert Dane it seems had
walked to the same spot, and we met.
I know he took me for my own appa-
rition, for he scuttered off like a man
scared by one, while I stepped to the
next window, and got inside. Are
you readv, William ? "We go first to
Wilfred Lester's."

"To Wilfred Lester's!" involun-
tarily uttered Wilfred's father.

" Yes, sir, to Wilfred Lester's." re-
plied Lord Dane, somewhat sternly.
" His own flesh and blood have for-
saken him, have abandoned him to
the charity of a cold world, so it is
time the world took him up. I in-
tend to carry him and his wife to the
castle, to-day — pretty little Edith as
she used to be, more ready with her
kisses for Captain Harry Dane J;han
Maria was — and there they shall stop,
my guests and William's, until some-
body can see about a home for them.
In a measure I look upon this as my
duty. Tarious tales have come to my
ears — Danesheld gossip again ! — that
my cousin Adelaide has set the father
against the son. If so, I feel sure
that Adelaide has had some base and
crafty adviser, — possibly she may find
it to have been a member of her
household. At any rate Wilft-ed
stays with us until you and she come
to your senses. Do you hear, Ade-
laide ?"

Lady Adelaide did hear, and looked
terribly conscious and confused. But,
what was more to the purpose, she
looked repentant.

They left the hall, and were about
to step into the carriage, when they
encountered Miss Bordillion, who was
calling at it. Like some others had

done, and like many others were des-
tined to do before the day closed, she
started back at the sight of Lord
Dane. The facts were hastily ex-
plained to her.

" I told you that the time would soon
come for you to welcome me again,"
smiled William, as he held out his
hand. " Your door will be open, I
hope, to Geoffry Dane, though it was
not to AVilliam Lydney."

" And Maria ?" she uttered, unable
to take in at once all the wonders.

" Oh ! I had serious thoughts of
running away with Maria," laughed
he, " but Mr. Lester has obviated the
necessity. He tells me I may take
her without."

Miss Bordillion gazed after the car-
riage, as it swept round the gravel-
drive, and at William's face, which
still smiled upon her from the window.

" I never will be persuaded out of
my senses again," emphaticalh utter-
ed she. " My judgment trusted him,
my heart spoke for him : hut because
others turned against him, I must
needs do the same : and now I am
just paid out."

Lady Adelaide had gone up to her
chamber with their departure, and
there sat Tiffle on a stool of thorny
impatience. She was big with news.

" Not but what I'm grieved to
have it to disclose, my lady, for its
awfial inaquitty," quoth she " Know-
ing your ladyship was not down, and
hearing voices in the drawing-room, I
made bold to put my eye to the key-
hole, and there I saw — but it's too
barefaced to tell your ladyship, and
makes me red all over, down to the
extrimities of my toes."

" Tell it on," said Lady Adelaide.

" My lady, there was that advinterer
there, that Lydney, and he had got
Miss Lester all held close to him, her
face upon — if you'll ixcuse my min-
tioning the word — his breast, my lady,
and was a-kissing of her like any

" You and I may have been kissed
in our days, Tiffle," was the cool re-
sponse of Lady Adelaide. " I expect
she will soon be his wife."



" His wife !" shrieked Tiffle, in her
amazement. " Lydney's ? What, and
go out with him a Botamy-Bay con-
vict ?"

" Tiffle !" reprimanded her ladyship,
in a sharp, haughty tone. " Have the
goodness to recollect yourself: you
are speaking of Miss Lester."

She pointed to the door as she spoke,
and Tiffle retired, cowed and thunder-
struck. One of the under-servants
met her, and said that Shad was out-
side the back-entrance, asking for her.

" Shad ! come here asking forme !"
responded Tiffle, in a great amount
of wrath. "I'll teach him to come
after me, ondacious little reptile !
That Granny Bean is forever wanting
fresh stuff for her rhcumitix."

" Granny said I was to cut and tell
ye, and not to mind calling at the
house for once," began Shad, in an
undertone, when Tiffle reached him.
"Lord Dane's come back."

" Come back from where ?" cried
Tiffle. " Where has he been ?"

"Not him at the castle: he ain't
Lord Dane no more. T'other's come,
him what they says fell over the cliff,
but he come to life again. He have
took up his footing at the castle, and
t'other '11 have to turn out. Granny
said I was to tell ye as Lydney — "

"Well!" said "Tiffle, impatiently,
staring with all her eyes. " Get on

"As Lydney have been here in dis-
guise, a-looking after what folks did
wrong, but not a-helping of 'era, as
was thought. He's t'other's son, and
his name's Geoffry Dane, and he'll be
Lord Dane after him."

Tiffle gathered in the words, gath-
ered in her own politics of the past,
and fell back in a real faintinff-fit.



Nevfr sure was such a levee seen
or heard of. It had no parallel in

historj^, ancient or modern. Her
majesty sometimes has a crowded
court, her subjects pressing in to do
her honor ; but her crowds arc all of
that class who bask on the sunny side
of life : no Lazarus must mix with
them. The levee at Dane Castle was
of a different nature.

It appeared that Lord Dane, with
his induction to the home of his ances-
tors, had taken a new lease of life, so
well did he appear. His malady was
of a nature to cause him at times ex-
cruciating agony, varied with inter-
ludes, lasting perhaps a week or fort-
night, even more, of freedom from
pain. His last attack at the Sailor's
Rest, when he sent for Mr. Apperly,
had been so violent as to induce a
belief in himself and Dr. Green that
the end was fast approaching, but Ke
appeared now to have completely
rallied from it. Excitement is of
benefit in some cases ; perhaps it had
been so to him.

The castle was thrown open at ten
o'clock on the morning of the levee, —
a brilliant morning in winter, with a
blae sky and a bright sun. It was
known to be Lord Dane's pleasure
that all should attend it, of w^hatever
degree, high or low, — of whatever
character, bad or good. Not confined
to the Dives of life was it, — the aristo-
cratic few of Lord Dane's own rank,
who might claim the right of entree ;
not confined was it to the still more
scanty few of the good and great ; the
poor fisherman was as welcome as the
exclusive gentleman ; and the poach-
ers and smugglers were expressly told
to be there. The lower end of the
large hall was lined with the Dane re-
tainers, in their handsome livery of
purple, their white coats laced with
silver. Bruff and Ravensbird stood
behind Lord Dane : uncommonly
proud was Bruff that day.

How fast the visitors flocked in,
none could tell, save those who wit-
nessed it, all pushing eagerly to wel-
come and do honor to Lord Dane.
Had he been made of hands, there
would scarcely have been sufficient to
satisfy the ardent crowd. He stood



with thorn both outstretched ; he had
a kind look, a low, heart-felt word for
all. His son stood at his rijrht hand,
and he presented him individually to
all. Wilfred Lester was also very
near him, treated by him with marked
affection and distinction : Lord Dane
was determined to do what he could
towards bringing Wilfred back to his
proper standing in society, — towards
reinstating him in the respect of the
world. Men saw with surprise that
day that Squire Lester also paid con-
sideration to his son : it must be re-
membered that the last and worst es-
capade, the breaking into the hall, was
not known or suspected to be his

"Ah, my lord," cried Mr. WikJ, the
surgeon, as he, too, offered his greet-
ings to Lord Dane, "but it w^as not
well of you to be attended by a
stranger at the Sailor's Rest. Doctor
Green has been but two years in the
place, and I grew up in it; your
father thought me skillful enough for

Lord Dane laid his hand on the
doctor's shoulder.

" Wild," he laughed, " I appoint
you surgeon in ordinary to me from
henceforth; not that I shall live to
employ you long ; you must get my
son to fall ill after I am gone, and ex-
ercise your skill on him. Why, man,
don't you see the reason of my calling
in a stranger instead of you. You
would have known me for Harry Dane
at the first glance, and would have
gone crowing with the secret all over
Danesheld : that would not have suited
my plans just then."

Mr. Wild shook his head.

"It has taken me down a notch,
though, to think that you should have
called in a stranger."

When the hall was full, and people
had done coming in, so far as could be
judged, William Dane — no longer
William Lydney — left his father's side
and mixed with the crowd. Nearly
the first his eye lighted particularly on,
was Inspector Young.

" I hope, sir, you won't remember
past times wuth resentment," began

he, " and visit your displeasure upon
me when you come into power as chief
of Danesheld."

" What an idea 1" laughed William.
" I gave you credit for better sense,
Young ; or at any rate believed that
you would give me credit for better.
You did your simple duty, and none
of us can do more. We shall be fa-
mous friends," he added, holding out
his hand, and the gratified man took
it graspingly. His night's rest had
been spoiled by the thought that he
had taken into custody and treated as
a common prisoner, the Honorable
Geoffry William Dane.

Who should William come upon
next, skulking near the door behind
the servants, and not daring to ad-
vance, but Ben Beecher. It was the
first time they had met since the mid-
night encounter in Squire Lester's
hall : Beecher and his two companions
had been keeping themselves close
and quiet since, but they had ventured
to the castle this day, arguing that
their absence might tell against them
worse than their presence ; so they
had assumed what bold faces they
might, and followed in the wake of
the stream. Their share in the ex-
ploit was known to two or three ; it
was perhaps suspected by Squire
Lester ; but there was no fear that
further notice would be taken: for
since the disclosure relative to his son,
Squire Lester had become as anxious
to hush up the affair, as he had pre-
viously been to investigate it. Wil-
liam Dane knew this.

"Is it you Ben Beecher, come to
pay me a visit in my owti house ?" he
cheerily began. " More space to wel-
come you here, than I had at the
Sailor's Rest. Why don't you come
forward to my lord ? your father has
already had his confab out with him."
" Sir, how could you go on deceiv-
ing us and blinding us in that way ?"
returned Ben Beecher, in a tone of tim-
id deprecation. " If we had dreamt
that you were the Lord Dane — or as
good as the lord — should we ever
have let you know our secrets ?
Why, there's not a thing about us



but what you know, even the very

" I am gkd I do," replied William.

" It has just stopped our fun for-
ever !" uttered Beecher.

" I hope it has," he laughed. " That
is the very best calamity that could
happen to you."

" Yes, sir ; but may just have us
all took up to-morrow, and transport-
ed upon your sole evidence."

" No, Beecher, I shall not do that,"
he gravely answered. " I would
much rather keep you here, in the
hope that you will be loyal depend-
ents of mine when I do become your
lord. I wish that time might be very
far off, Beecher ; but I fear it is all
too close. You say I had knowedge
of the worst: I certainly did know of
your ventures in the poaching line,
and I did hold to the hope that there
your sins ended : I never could have
believed that you would rush upon
the crime of midnight housebreaking.
I should have been the first to give
you into custody, had I known it.
What could have possessed you to
engage — "

" Hush-sh-sh !" interrupted Beecher,
glancing round him with a pale face.
But the room was too full of hum-
ming commotion to afford a chance of
its overhearing. " The whole fault
was Wilfred Lester's ; he beguiled us
into it ; I swear he did. Sir, he never
put it to us in the light of a crime ;
he harped upon his owai wrongs, his
father's cruelty, and said would we
help him to get out his own deed.
I'm sure what he said might have
talked a regiment of saints into help-
ing him."

" It was a crime and a disgraceful
one," repeated William Dane; "all
the accessories were bad. The dis-
guising crape alone would have
stamped you villains. It is all very
well to lay the blame on Wilfred
Lester, — I do not deny he bears the
chief share of it, — to say the abstrac-
tion of the deed was the object ;
unless I am mistaken, your object was
the plate chest."

"When men of our sort get put

right in the way of temptation, you,
being what you are, sir, can't under-
stand how well-nigh impossible it is
for 'em to go aside from it," was
Beecher's answer.

" Yes, 1 can, I ean understand it
all," interrupted William.

" Once inside the house, took into
it, too, by the squire's own son, and
the plate chest handy, it was hardly
in the nature of man not to help
themselves," pleaded Beecher. "We
should never have put our necks in
the noose of our own accord, but Will
Lester, he took us into it ; and that's
how it was. If it was the last word
I had to speak, we never did such a
thing afore, and the fright has been
such a lesson to us, that we shall
never do it again. Passing on shore
a bit of tobacco, or taking ofi" a hare,
or a stray goose, or a chicken, have
been in our line, but not them graver
things. There is a set who dodge
about Danesheld and other neighbor-
ing places, as their work or the police
let them, and go into worse things,
and we know 'em, and are friendly
with 'em ; but we have never joined
'em, and we wouldn't do it, and that
I declare's the truth. It was them I
thought might have helped them-
selves to the box when it was miss-
ing, Mr. Lydney."

" Mr. Dane," corrected William,
with a smile.

"Dash my memory! I wish it
never had been Dane, though. Is
Squire Lester going to issue a warrant
against us — does he suspect it was
us ?" continued the man, again glanc-
ing round him.

" Whether Squire Lester suspects
or not, I cannot inform you ; he does
not know. Do you know what my
opinion is, Beecher ?"

" What, sir ?"

" That the better mode of proceed-
ing for all parties, will be to do noth-
ing ; but to let the affair die out in
silence. Were I Lord Dane, I should
recommend that to Squire Lester with
all my influence."

" Ah, if he would !" uttered Beech-
er, his eyes sparkling.



" Allow me to recommend you, — all
of you who were engaged in it, — to be
entirely silent Never speak of it
even among yourselves ; never let the
name of Wilfred Lester, as connected
with it, escape your lips. It is the
only safe plan. Were he brought to
book for it, you must inevitably be
brought also ; my own evidence,
which I should be called upon then to
give, would convict you. Remember,
I saw and recognized you three in
the house, but I did not see him in

" True, true," whispered Beecher.
" Oh, sir ! if you would but be mer-
ciful to us, and keep our counsel !
We'd promise faithfully never to go
upon your lands in return for it. I'm
sure if we had known, that night,
that it was the young Lord of Danes-
held who pounced upon us in the hall,
and not Mr. Lydney, I for one should
have been fit to go and hang myself.
As to splitting upon Wilfred Lester,
we should never do that for our own

" Beecher, will you make a bargain
with me ? If I undertake that —
through my influence, or my father's,
with Squire Lester — you shall never
be proceeded against for this midnight
crime, even should your participation
in it come to Squire Lester's ears,
will you promise, on your parts, to
drop the disreputable lives you have
hitherto been leading, eschew expedi-
tions against game and game-keepers,
and let the Dane lands alone ?"

"Yes, we will," answered Beecher,

" In our first encounter in the wood,
which you may not have forgotten, I
told you that it was no business of
mine did you prowl about the Dane
preserves all day, a gun in one hand
and snares in the other, seeing they
were not mine. Virtually they were
mine, at least my father's, but actually
they were in possession of him who
was then called Lord Dane. I told
you also, that if they were mine, the
affair would be very different. You
must see that it is, Beecher. It is my

duty now to protect the lands, and I
shall do it."

" I can't gainsay it, my lord," re-
turned Beecher, who seemed lost in

" What slips of the tongue you do
make !" merrily cried William. " I
am no more ' my lord' than I am ' Mr.
Lydney ;' you were dreaming of the
future, I expect. The ex-lord, ' Mr.
Herbert, had a reverence for game,
people say ; I have more reverence for
one man's well doing than I have for
all the game in England ; nevertheless,
I respect and shall uphold the game-
laws. Cannot you and I contrive to
remain friends, Beecher, in spite of
them ?"

" Friends 1" echoed the man, with
deep feeling.

" I said friends. It will be your
fault if we are not. You cannot sup-
pose I shall take advantage of the
past in any way ; of the knowledge
which circumstances brought to me
touching your pursuits. You once
said, Beecher, that had you been dealt
with in a kinder spirit, you might
have been different men. Suppose
you begin to be so from this day, and
I will help you. Wrong doings will
not fit you for the next world, or
speak for you when you get there."

Beecher made no answer ; his face
was working.

" You shall have constant work on
the estate, and be well paid for it in
fair wages ; a more safe and certain
living, that, than what you obtain
from your night expeditions. The
estate has been well kept up, but its
laborers have been neglected ; I shall
hope to go upon a different plan, to
make it a model one."

" The estate or the men ?" cried
Beecher, with little regard to the laws
of grammar.

" Both," smiled William Dane.

" The men must be true to me, and
I shall be true to them. They must
give me their best service, not eye-
service, and I will ever consider their
true interests in a kind and watchful
spirit ; in short, I intend that we



should be friends in the best sense of
the word, they and I, identifying our
interest one with the other. Will
you be one, Beecher ?"

The man half stole his hand out
before he answered.

" Ay, I will, sir ; I'll do as you
wish me ; for I'm pretty near tired
of the life I have led."

" A bargain ! and we will neither
of us go from it," whispered William
as he shook it.

But there was another colloquy,
one perhaps more interesting to the
reader, taking place in a further cor-
ner of the apartment I and those
holding it were Herbert, ex-Lord
Dane, and Richard Ravensbird.

" Concealment for us all is over
with it's necessity, Ravensbird," Her-
bert Dane was observing. " Your
conduct of the past puzzled me : let
me hear its explanation."

Ravensbird looked at him steadily.

" Are you speaking of the time of
the accident, sir ? when my master
fell from the heights ?"

" I am. I thought your manners
then were remarkably strange. To
begin with, you protested to me that
you could lay your finger upon the
man who had caused it. What in-
duced you to say that ? and to whom
did you allude ?"

" Shall I speak out freely, sir ? I
must, if I speak at all."

" I wish you to speak out, other-
wise I should not have desired you."

" Then, sir, I entertained no manner
of doubt that my master had been
deliberately pushed over ; murdered.
And I believed it was you who had
done it."

" The doubt was upon me at the
time that you suspected me. But
why should you have done so ?"

" Because I knew that both you and
he were after my Lady Adelaide. I
was his servant, firm to his interests,
and it was I who told him she favored
you and not him. I had been the
previous evening in the ruins, and I
saw your meeting with her. Sir, why
frown upon me in that haughty man-

ner ? I am speaking out at your re-
quest, but I can be silent if you will.
I told my master that you and she
were in the habit of meeting there,
and I got kicked out for it. When,
that same night, a struggle took place
on the heights close to the ruins, end-
ing in my master's destruction, I natur-

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