The Lair of the White Worm
At breakfast Sir Nathaniel noticed that Adam was put out about something, but he said
nothing. The lesson of silence is better remembered in age than in youth. When they were
both in the study, where Sir Nathaniel followed him, Adam at once began to tell his
companion of what had happened. Sir Nathaniel looked graver and graver as the narration
proceeded, and when Adam had stopped he remained silent for several minutes, before
"This is very grave. I have not formed any opinion yet; but it seems to me at first
impression that this is worse than anything I had expected."
"Why, sir?" said Adam. "Is the killing of a mongoose--no matter by whom--so serious a
thing as all that?"
His companion smoked on quietly for quite another few minutes before he spoke.
"When I have properly thought it over I may moderate my opinion, but in the meantime it
seems to me that there is something dreadful behind all this--something that may affect
all our lives--that may mean the issue of life or death to any of us."
Adam sat up quickly.
"Do tell me, sir, what is in your mind--if, of course, you have no objection, or do not
think it better to withhold it."
"I have no objection, Adam--in fact, if I had, I should have to overcome it. I fear there
can be no more reserved thoughts between us."
"Indeed, sir, that sounds serious, worse than serious!"
"Adam, I greatly fear that the time has come for us--for you and me, at all events--to
speak out plainly to one another. Does not there seem something very mysterious about
"I have thought so, sir, all along. The only difficulty one has is what one is to think and
where to begin."
"Let us begin with what you have told me. First take the conduct of the mongoose. He
was quiet, even friendly and affectionate with you. He only attacked the snakes, which is,
after all, his business in life."
"That is so!"
"Then we must try to find some reason why he attacked Lady Arabella."