The Lair of the White Worm HTML version

24. A Startling Proposition
The more Mimi thought over the late events, the more puzzled she was. What did it all
mean--what could it mean, except that there was an error of fact somewhere. Could it be
possible that some of them--all of them had been mistaken, that there had been no White
Worm at all? On either side of her was a belief impossible of reception. Not to believe in
what seemed apparent was to destroy the very foundations of belief. . . yet in old days
there had been monsters on the earth, and certainly some people had believed in just such
mysterious changes of identity. It was all very strange. Just fancy how any stranger--say a
doctor--would regard her, if she were to tell him that she had been to a tea-party with an
antediluvian monster, and that they had been waited on by up-to-date men-servants.
Adam had returned, exhilarated by his walk, and more settled in his mind than he had
been for some time. Like Mimi, he had gone through the phase of doubt and inability to
believe in the reality of things, though it had not affected him to the same extent. The
idea, however, that his wife was suffering ill-effects from her terrible ordeal, braced him
up. He remained with her for a time, then he sought Sir Nathaniel in order to talk over the
matter with him. He knew that the calm common sense and self-reliance of the old man,
as well as his experience, would be helpful to them all.
Sir Nathaniel had come to the conclusion that, for some reason which he did not
understand, Lady Arabella had changed her plans, and, for the present at all events, was
pacific. He was inclined to attribute her changed demeanour to the fact that her influence
over Edgar Caswall was so far increased, as to justify a more fixed belief in his
submission to her charms.
As a matter of fact, she had seen Caswall that morning when she visited Castra Regis,
and they had had a long talk together, during which the possibility of their union had
been discussed. Caswall, without being enthusiastic on the subject, had been courteous
and attentive; as she had walked back to Diana's Grove, she almost congratulated herself
on her new settlement in life. That the idea was becoming fixed in her mind, was shown
by a letter which she wrote later in the day to Adam Salton, and sent to him by hand. It
ran as follows:
"I wonder if you would kindly advise, and, if possible, help me in a matter of business. I
have been for some time trying to make up my mind to sell Diana's Grove, I have put off
and put off the doing of it till now. The place is my own property, and no one has to be
consulted with regard to what I may wish to do about it. It was bought by my late
husband, Captain Adolphus Ranger March, who had another residence, The Crest,
Appleby. He acquired all rights of all kinds, including mining and sporting. When he
died, he left his whole property to me. I shall feel leaving this place, which has become
endeared to me by many sacred memories and affections--the recollection of many happy
days of my young married life, and the more than happy memories of the man I loved and