“Tell me now, Adam, what is the outcome, in your own mind, of our conversation?”
“That the whole difficulty already assumes practical shape; but with added dangers, that at first I did not imagine.”
“What is the practical shape, and what are the added dangers? I am not disputing, but only trying to clear my own ideas by the consideration of yours—”
So Adam went on:
“In the past, in the early days of the world, there were monsters who were so vast that they could exist for thousands of years. Some of them must have overlapped the Christian era. They may have progressed intellectually in process of time. If they had in any way so progressed, or even got the most rudimentary form of brain, they would be the most dangerous things that ever were in the world. Tradition says that one of these monsters lived in the Marsh of the East, and came up to a cave in Diana’s Grove, which was also called the Lair of the White Worm. Such creatures may have grown down as well as up. They may have grown into, or something like, human beings. Lady Arabella March is of snake nature. She has committed crimes to our knowledge. She retains something of the vast strength of her primal being—can see in the dark—has the eyes of a snake. She used the nigger, and then dragged him through the snake’s hole down to the swamp; she is intent on evil, and hates some one we love. Result . . . "
“Yes, the result?”
“First, that Mimi Watford should be taken away at once—then—”
“The monster must be destroyed.”
“Bravo! That is a true and fearless conclusion. At whatever cost, it must be carried out.”
“Soon, at all events. That creature’s very existence is a danger. Her presence in this neighbourhood makes the danger immediate.”
As he spoke, Sir Nathaniel’s mouth hardened and his eyebrows came down till they met. There was no doubting his concurrence in the resolution, or his readiness to help in carrying it out. But he was an elderly man with much experience and knowledge of law and diplomacy. It seemed to him to be a stern duty to prevent anything irrevocable taking place till it had been thought out and all was ready. There were all sorts of legal cruxes to be thought out, not only regarding the taking of life, even of a monstrosity in human form, but also of property. Lady Arabella, be she woman or snake or devil, owned the ground she moved in, according to British law, and the law is jealous and swift to avenge wrongs done within its ken. All such difficulties should be—must be—avoided for Mr. Salton’s sake, for Adam’s own sake, and, most of all, for Mimi Watford’s sake.
Before he spoke again, Sir Nathaniel had made up his mind that he must try to postpone decisive action until the circumstances on which they depended—which, after all, were only problematical—should have been tested satisfactorily, one way or another. When he did speak, Adam at first thought that his friend was wavering in his intention, or “funking” the responsibility. However, his respect for Sir Nathaniel was so great that he would not act, or even come to a conclusion on a vital point, without his sanction.