The Lair of the White Worm HTML version

4. The Lady Arabella March
"Now, there is no hurry, but so soon as you are both ready we shall start," Mr. Salton said
when breakfast had begun. "I want to take you first to see a remarkable relic of Mercia,
and then we'll go to Liverpool through what is called 'The Great Vale of Cheshire.' You
may be disappointed, but take care not to prepare your mind"--this to Adam--"for
anything stupendous or heroic. You would not think the place a vale at all, unless you
were told so beforehand, and had confidence in the veracity of the teller. We should get
to the Landing Stage in time to meet the WEST AFRICAN, and catch Mr. Caswall as he
comes ashore. We want to do him honour--and, besides, it will be more pleasant to have
the introductions over before we go to his FETE at the Castle."
The carriage was ready, the same as had been used the previous day, but there were
different horses--magnificent animals, and keen for work. Breakfast was soon over, and
they shortly took their places. The postillions had their orders, and were quickly on their
way at an exhilarating pace.
Presently, in obedience to Mr. Salton's signal, the carriage drew up opposite a great heap
of stones by the wayside.
"Here, Adam," he said, "is something that you of all men should not pass by unnoticed.
That heap of stones brings us at once to the dawn of the Anglian kingdom. It was begun
more than a thousand years ago--in the latter part of the seventh century--in memory of a
murder. Wulfere, King of Mercia, nephew of Penda, here murdered his two sons for
embracing Christianity. As was the custom of the time, each passer-by added a stone to
the memorial heap. Penda represented heathen reaction after St. Augustine's mission. Sir
Nathaniel can tell you as much as you want about this, and put you, if you wish, on the
track of such accurate knowledge as there is."
Whilst they were looking at the heap of stones, they noticed that another carriage had
drawn up beside them, and the passenger--there was only one--was regarding them
curiously. The carriage was an old heavy travelling one, with arms blazoned on it
gorgeously. The men took off their hats, as the occupant, a lady, addressed them.
"How do you do, Sir Nathaniel? How do you do, Mr. Salton? I hope you have not met
with any accident. Look at me!"
As she spoke she pointed to where one of the heavy springs was broken across, the
broken metal showing bright. Adam spoke up at once:
"Oh, that can soon be put right."
"Soon? There is no one near who can mend a break like that."
"I can."