The Lair of the White Worm HTML version

3. Diana's Grove
Curiosity took Adam Salton out of bed in the early morning, but when he had dressed and
gone downstairs; he found that, early as he was, Sir Nathaniel was ahead of him. The old
gentleman was quite prepared for a long walk, and they started at once.
Sir Nathaniel, without speaking, led the way to the east, down the hill. When they had
descended and risen again, they found themselves on the eastern brink of a steep hill. It
was of lesser height than that on which the Castle was situated; but it was so placed that it
commanded the various hills that crowned the ridge. All along the ridge the rock cropped
out, bare and bleak, but broken in rough natural castellation. The form of the ridge was a
segment of a circle, with the higher points inland to the west. In the centre rose the
Castle, on the highest point of all. Between the various rocky excrescences were groups
of trees of various sizes and heights, amongst some of which were what, in the early
morning light, looked like ruins. These--whatever they were--were of massive grey stone,
probably limestone rudely cut--if indeed they were not shaped naturally. The fall of the
ground was steep all along the ridge, so steep that here and there both trees and rocks and
buildings seemed to overhang the plain far below, through which ran many streams.
Sir Nathaniel stopped and looked around, as though to lose nothing of the effect. The sun
had climbed the eastern sky and was making all details clear. He pointed with a sweeping
gesture, as though calling Adam's attention to the extent of the view. Having done so, he
covered the ground more slowly, as though inviting attention to detail. Adam was a
willing and attentive pupil, and followed his motions exactly, missing--or trying to miss--
"I have brought you here, Adam, because it seems to me that this is the spot on which to
begin our investigations. You have now in front of you almost the whole of the ancient
kingdom of Mercia. In fact, we see the whole of it except that furthest part, which is
covered by the Welsh Marches and those parts which are hidden from where we stand by
the high ground of the immediate west. We can see--theoretically--the whole of the
eastern bound of the kingdom, which ran south from the Humber to the Wash. I want you
to bear in mind the trend of the ground, for some time, sooner or later, we shall do well to
have it in our mind's eye when we are considering the ancient traditions and superstitions,
and are trying to find the RATIONALE of them. Each legend, each superstition which we
receive, will help in the understanding and possible elucidation of the others. And as all
such have a local basis, we can come closer to the truth--or the probability--by knowing
the local conditions as we go along. It will help us to bring to our aid such geological
truth as we may have between us. For instance, the building materials used in various
ages can afford their own lessons to understanding eyes. The very heights and shapes and
materials of these hills-- nay, even of the wide plain that lies between us and the sea--
have in themselves the materials of enlightening books."
"For instance, sir?" said Adam, venturing a question.