The Lair of the White Worm
1. Adam Salton Arrives
Adam Salton sauntered into the Empire Club, Sydney, and found awaiting him a letter
from his grand-uncle. He had first heard from the old gentleman less than a year before,
when Richard Salton had claimed kinship, stating that he had been unable to write earlier,
as he had found it very difficult to trace his grand-nephew's address. Adam was delighted
and replied cordially; he had often heard his father speak of the older branch of the family
with whom his people had long lost touch. Some interesting correspondence had ensued.
Adam eagerly opened the letter which had only just arrived, and conveyed a cordial
invitation to stop with his grand-uncle at Lesser Hill, for as long a time as he could spare.
"Indeed," Richard Salton went on, "I am in hopes that you will make your permanent
home here. You see, my dear boy, you and I are all that remain of our race, and it is but
fitting that you should succeed me when the time comes. In this year of grace, 1860, I am
close on eighty years of age, and though we have been a long-lived race, the span of life
cannot be prolonged beyond reasonable bounds. I am prepared to like you, and to make
your home with me as happy as you could wish. So do come at once on receipt of this,
and find the welcome I am waiting to give you. I send, in case such may make matters
easy for you, a banker's draft for 200 pounds. Come soon, so that we may both of us
enjoy many happy days together. If you are able to give me the pleasure of seeing you,
send me as soon as you can a letter telling me when to expect you. Then when you arrive
at Plymouth or Southampton or whatever port you are bound for, wait on board, and I
will meet you at the earliest hour possible."
Old Mr. Salton was delighted when Adam's reply arrived and sent a groom hot-foot to his
crony, Sir Nathaniel de Salis, to inform him that his grand-nephew was due at
Southampton on the twelfth of June.
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.