The Lair of the White Worm HTML version

9. Smelling Death
Adam Salton, though he talked little, did not let the grass grow under his feet in any
matter which he had undertaken, or in which he was interested. He had agreed with Sir
Nathaniel that they should not do anything with regard to the mystery of Lady Arabella's
fear of the mongoose, but he steadily pursued his course in being PREPARED to act
whenever the opportunity might come. He was in his own mind perpetually casting about
for information or clues which might lead to possible lines of action. Baffled by the
killing of the mongoose, he looked around for another line to follow. He was fascinated
by the idea of there being a mysterious link between the woman and the animal, but he
was already preparing a second string to his bow. His new idea was to use the faculties of
Oolanga, so far as he could, in the service of discovery. His first move was to send
Davenport to Liverpool to try to find the steward of the WEST AFRICAN, who had told
him about Oolanga, and if possible secure any further information, and then try to induce
(by bribery or other means) the nigger to come to the Brow. So soon as he himself could
have speech of the Voodoo-man he would be able to learn from him something useful.
Davenport was successful in his missions, for he had to get another mongoose, and he
was able to tell Adam that he had seen the steward, who told him much that he wanted to
know, and had also arranged for Oolanga to come to Lesser Hill the following day. At
this point Adam saw his way sufficiently clear to admit Davenport to some extent into his
confidence. He had come to the conclusion that it would be better--certainly at first--not
himself to appear in the matter, with which Davenport was fully competent to deal. It
would be time for himself to take a personal part when matters had advanced a little
If what the nigger said was in any wise true, the man had a rare gift which might be
useful in the quest they were after. He could, as it were, "smell death." If any one was
dead, if any one had died, or if a place had been used in connection with death, he
seemed to know the broad fact by intuition. Adam made up his mind that to test this
faculty with regard to several places would be his first task. Naturally he was anxious,
and the time passed slowly. The only comfort was the arrival the next morning of a
strong packing case, locked, from Ross, the key being in the custody of Davenport. In the
case were two smaller boxes, both locked. One of them contained a mongoose to replace
that killed by Lady Arabella; the other was the special mongoose which had already
killed the king-cobra in Nepaul. When both the animals had been safely put under lock
and key, he felt that he might breathe more freely. No one was allowed to know the secret
of their existence in the house, except himself and Davenport. He arranged that
Davenport should take Oolanga round the neighbourhood for a walk, stopping at each of
the places which he designated. Having gone all along the Brow, he was to return the
same way and induce him to touch on the same subjects in talking with Adam, who was
to meet them as if by chance at the farthest part--that beyond Mercy Farm.
The incidents of the day proved much as Adam expected. At Mercy Farm, at Diana's
Grove, at Castra Regis, and a few other spots, the negro stopped and, opening his wide
nostrils as if to sniff boldly, said that he smelled death. It was not always in the same