There was silence in the room, during which the twilight stole on imperceptibly. It was Adam who again broke the silence.
"Do you know, uncle, if we have any second sight in our family?"
"No, not that I ever heard about. Why?"
"Because," he answered slowly, "I have a conviction which seems to answer all the conditions of second sight."
"And then?" asked the old man, much perturbed.
"And then the usual inevitable. What in the Hebrides and other places, where the Sight is a cult--a belief--is called 'the doom'-- the court from which there is no appeal. I have often heard of second sight--we have many western Scots in Australia; but I have realised more of its true inwardness in an instant of this afternoon than I did in the whole of my life previously--a granite wall stretching up to the very heavens, so high and so dark that the eye of God Himself cannot see beyond. Well, if the Doom must come, it must. That is all."
The voice of Sir Nathaniel broke in, smooth and sweet and grave.
"Can there not be a fight for it? There can for most things."
"For most things, yes, but for the Doom, no. What a man can do I shall do. There will be--must be--a fight. When and where and how I know not, but a fight there will be. But, after all, what is a man in such a case?"
"Adam, there are three of us." Salton looked at his old friend as he spoke, and that old friend's eyes blazed.
"Ay, three of us," he said, and his voice rang.
There was again a pause, and Sir Nathaniel endeavoured to get back to less emotional and more neutral ground.
"Tell us of the rest of the meeting. Remember we are all pledged to this. It is a fight E L'OUTRANCE, and we can afford to throw away or forgo no chance."
"We shall throw away or lose nothing that we can help. We fight to win, and the stake is a life--perhaps more than one--we shall see." Then he went on in a conversational tone, such as he had used when he spoke of the coming to the farm of Edgar Caswall: "When Mr. Caswall came in, the negro went a short distance away and there remained. It gave me the idea that he expected to be called, and intended to remain in sight, or within hail. Then Mimi got another cup and made fresh tea, and we all went on together."
"Was there anything uncommon--were you all quite friendly?" asked Sir Nathaniel quietly.
"Quite friendly. There was nothing that I could notice out of the common--except," he went on, with a slight hardening of the voice, "except that he kept his eyes fixed on Lilla, in a way which was quite intolerable to any man who might hold her dear."
"Now, in what way did he look?" asked Sir Nathaniel.
"There was nothing in itself offensive; but no one could help noticing it."
"You did. Miss Watford herself, who was the victim, and Mr. Caswall, who was the offender, are out of range as witnesses. Was there anyone else who noticed?"
"Mimi did. Her face flamed with anger as she saw the look."
"What kind of look was it? Over-ardent or too admiring, or what? Was it the look of a lover, or one who fain would be? You understand?"
"Yes, sir, I quite understand. Anything of that sort I should of course notice. It would be part of my preparation for keeping my self-control--to which I am pledged."
"If it were not amatory, was it threatening? Where was the offence?"
Adam smiled kindly at the old man.
"It was not amatory. Even if it was, such was to be expected. I should be the last man in the world to object, since I am myself an offender in that respect. Moreover, not only have I been taught to fight fair, but by nature I believe I am just. I would be as tolerant of and as liberal to a rival as I should expect him to be to me. No, the look I mean was nothing of that kind. And so long as it did not lack proper respect, I should not of my own part condescend to notice it. Did you ever study the eyes of a hound?"
"No, when he is following his instincts! Or, better still," Adam went on, "the eyes of a bird of prey when he is following his instincts. Not when he is swooping, but merely when he is watching his quarry?"
"No," said Sir Nathaniel, "I don't know that I ever did. Why, may I ask?"
"That was the look. Certainly not amatory or anything of that kind- -yet it was, it struck me, more dangerous, if not so deadly as an actual threatening."
Again there was a silence, which Sir Nathaniel broke as he stood up:
"I think it would be well if we all thought over this by ourselves. Then we can renew the subject."
The Lair of the White Worm -by- Bram StokerBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.