The Lair of the White Worm
Mr. Salton had an appointment for six o'clock at Liverpool. When he had driven off, Sir
Nathaniel took Adam by the arm.
"May I come with you for a while to your study? I want to speak to you privately without
your uncle knowing about it, or even what the subject is. You don't mind, do you? It is
not idle curiosity. No, no. It is on the subject to which we are all committed."
"Is it necessary to keep my uncle in the dark about it? He might be offended."
"It is not necessary; but it is advisable. It is for his sake that I asked. My friend is an old
man, and it might concern him unduly-- even alarm him. I promise you there shall be
nothing that could cause him anxiety in our silence, or at which he could take umbrage."
"Go on, sir!" said Adam simply.
"You see, your uncle is now an old man. I know it, for we were boys together. He has led
an uneventful and somewhat self-contained life, so that any such condition of things as
has now arisen is apt to perplex him from its very strangeness. In fact, any new matter is
trying to old people. It has its own disturbances and its own anxieties, and neither of these
things are good for lives that should be restful. Your uncle is a strong man, with a very
happy and placid nature. Given health and ordinary conditions of life, there is no reason
why he should not live to be a hundred. You and I, therefore, who both love him, though
in different ways, should make it our business to protect him from all disturbing
influences. I am sure you will agree with me that any labour to this end would be well
spent. All right, my boy! I see your answer in your eyes; so we need say no more of that.
And now," here his voice changed, "tell me all that took place at that interview. There are
strange things in front of us--how strange we cannot at present even guess. Doubtless
some of the difficult things to understand which lie behind the veil will in time be shown
to us to see and to understand. In the meantime, all we can do is to work patiently,
fearlessly, and unselfishly, to an end that we think is right. You had got so far as where
Lilla opened the door to Mr. Caswall and the negro. You also observed that Mimi was
disturbed in her mind at the way Mr. Caswall looked at her cousin."
"Certainly--though 'disturbed' is a poor way of expressing her objection."
"Can you remember well enough to describe Caswall's eyes, and how Lilla looked, and
what Mimi said and did? Also Oolanga, Caswall's West African servant."
"I'll do what I can, sir. All the time Mr. Caswall was staring, he kept his eyes fixed and
motionless--but not as if he was in a trance. His forehead was wrinkled up, as it is when
one is trying to see through or into something. At the best of times his face has not a
gentle expression; but when it was screwed up like that it was almost diabolical. It
frightened poor Lilla so that she trembled, and after a bit got so pale that I thought she