I knew the family well. When still a young girl,
Lady Arabella wandered into a small wood near her home,
and did not return. She was found unconscious
and in a high fever—the doctor said that
she had received a poisonous bite, and the girl being
at a delicate and critical age, the result was serious—so
much so that she was not expected to recover.
A great London physician came down but could do nothing—indeed,
he said that the girl would not survive the night.
All hope had been abandoned, when, to everyone’s
surprise, Lady Arabella made a sudden and startling
recovery. Within a couple of days she was going
about as usual! But to the horror of her people,
she developed a terrible craving for cruelty, maiming
and injuring birds and small animals—even
killing them. This was put down to a nervous
disturbance due to her age, and it was hoped that her
marriage to Captain March would put this right.
However, it was not a happy marriage, and eventually
her husband was found shot through the head.
I have always suspected suicide, though no pistol
was found near the body. He may have discovered
something—God knows what!—so
possibly Lady Arabella may herself have killed him.
Putting together many small matters that have come
to my knowledge, I have come to the conclusion that
the foul White Worm obtained control of her body,
just as her soul was leaving its earthly tenement—that
would explain the sudden revival of energy, the strange
and inexplicable craving for maiming and killing, as
well as many other matters with which I need not trouble
you now, Adam. As I said just now, God alone
knows what poor Captain March discovered—it
must have been something too ghastly for human endurance,
if my theory is correct that the once beautiful human
body of Lady Arabella is under the control of this
ghastly White Worm.”
“But what can we do, sir—it seems
a most difficult problem.”
“We can do nothing, my boy—that is
the important part of it. It would be impossible
to take action—all we can do is to keep
careful watch, especially as regards Lady Arabella,
and be ready to act, promptly and decisively, if the
Adam agreed, and the two men returned to Lesser Hill.
CHAPTER IX—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