The Lair of the White Worm HTML version

13. Oolanga's Hallucinations
During the last few days Lady Arabella had been getting exceedingly impatient. Her
debts, always pressing, were growing to an embarrassing amount. The only hope she had
of comfort in life was a good marriage; but the good marriage on which she had fixed her
eye did not seem to move quickly enough--indeed, it did not seem to move at all--in the
right direction. Edgar Caswall was not an ardent wooer. From the very first he seemed
DIFFICILE, but he had been keeping to his own room ever since his struggle with Mimi
Watford. On that occasion Lady Arabella had shown him in an unmistakable way what
her feelings were; indeed, she had made it known to him, in a more overt way than pride
should allow, that she wished to help and support him. The moment when she had gone
across the room to stand beside him in his mesmeric struggle, had been the very limit of
her voluntary action. It was quite bitter enough, she felt, that he did not come to her, but
now that she had made that advance, she felt that any withdrawal on his part would, to a
woman of her class, be nothing less than a flaming insult. Had she not classed herself
with his nigger servant, an unreformed savage? Had she not shown her preference for
him at the festival of his home-coming? Had she not. . . Lady Arabella was cold-blooded,
and she was prepared to go through all that might be necessary of indifference, and even
insult, to become chatelaine of Castra Regis. In the meantime, she would show no hurry--
she must wait. She might, in an unostentatious way, come to him again. She knew him
now, and could make a keen guess at his desires with regard to Lilla Watford. With that
secret in her possession, she could bring pressure to bear on Caswall which would make
it no easy matter for him to evade her. The great difficulty was how to get near him. He
was shut up within his Castle, and guarded by a defence of convention which she could
not pass without danger of ill repute to herself. Over this question she thought and
thought for days and nights. At last she decided that the only way would be to go to him
openly at Castra Regis. Her rank and position would make such a thing possible, if
carefully done. She could explain matters afterwards if necessary. Then when they were
alone, she would use her arts and her experience to make him commit himself. After all,
he was only a man, with a man's dislike of difficult or awkward situations. She felt quite
sufficient confidence in her own womanhood to carry her through any difficulty which
might arise.
From Diana's Grove she heard each day the luncheon-gong from Castra Regis sound, and
knew the hour when the servants would be in the back of the house. She would enter the
house at that hour, and, pretending that she could not make anyone hear her, would seek
him in his own rooms. The tower was, she knew, away from all the usual sounds of the
house, and moreover she knew that the servants had strict orders not to interrupt him
when he was in the turret chamber. She had found out, partly by the aid of an opera-glass
and partly by judicious questioning, that several times lately a heavy chest had been
carried to and from his room, and that it rested in the room each night. She was,
therefore, confident that he had some important work on hand which would keep him
busy for long spells.