The Lair of the White Worm
22. At Close Quarters
"She has diabolical cunning," said Sir Nathaniel. "Ever since you left, she has ranged
along the Brow and wherever you were accustomed to frequent. I have not heard whence
the knowledge of your movements came to her, nor have I been able to learn any data
whereon to found an opinion. She seems to have heard both of your marriage and your
absence; but I gather, by inference, that she does not actually know where you and Mimi
are, or of your return. So soon as the dusk fails, she goes out on her rounds, and before
dawn covers the whole ground round the Brow, and away up into the heart of the Peak.
The White Worm, in her own proper shape, certainly has great facilities for the business
on which she is now engaged. She can look into windows of any ordinary kind. Happily,
this house is beyond her reach, if she wishes--as she manifestly does--to remain
unrecognised. But, even at this height, it is wise to show no lights, lest she might learn
something of our presence or absence."
"Would it not be well, sir, if one of us could see this monster in her real shape at close
quarters? I am willing to run the risk--for I take it there would be no slight risk in the
doing. I don't suppose anyone of our time has seen her close and lived to tell the tale."
Sir Nathaniel held up an expostulatory hand.
"Good God, lad, what are you suggesting? Think of your wife, and all that is at stake."
"It is of Mimi that I think--for her sake that I am willing to risk whatever is to be risked."
Adam's young bride was proud of her man, but she blanched at the thought of the ghastly
White Worm. Adam saw this and at once reassured her.
"So long as her ladyship does not know whereabout I am, I shall have as much safety as
remains to us; bear in mind, my darling, that we cannot be too careful."
Sir Nathaniel realised that Adam was right; the White Worm had no supernatural powers
and could not harm them until she discovered their hiding place. It was agreed, therefore,
that the two men should go together.
When the two men slipped out by the back door of the house, they walked cautiously
along the avenue which trended towards the west. Everything was pitch dark--so dark
that at times they had to feel their way by the palings and tree-trunks. They could still
see, seemingly far in front of them and high up, the baleful light which at the height and
distance seemed like a faint line. As they were now on the level of the ground, the light
seemed infinitely higher than it had from the top of the tower. At the sight Adam's heart
fell; the danger of the desperate enterprise which he had undertaken burst upon him. But
this feeling was shortly followed by another which restored him to himself--a fierce
loathing, and a desire to kill, such as he had never experienced before.