'It doesn't matter who she was. It's what she said that matters. She said that we knew you were Lord Dawlish.'

'Did you know?'

'Nutty told me two or three days ago.' Her voice shook and a flush came into her face. 'You probably won't believe it, but the news made absolutely no difference to me one way or the other. I had always imagined Lord Dawlish as a treacherous, adventurer sort of man, because I couldn't see how a man who was not like that could have persuaded Uncle Ira to leave him his money. But after knowing you even for this short time, I knew you were quite the opposite of that, and I remembered that the first thing you had done on coming into the money had been to offer me half, so the information that you were the Lord Dawlish whom I had been hating did not affect me. And the fact that you were rich and I was poor did not affect me either. I loved you, and that was all I cared about. If all this had not happened everything would have been all right. But, you see, nine-tenths of what that girl said to you was so perfectly true that it is humanly impossible for you not to believe the other tenth, which wasn't. And then, to clinch it, you hear Nutty consoling me. That brings me back to Nutty.'

'Let me tell you about Nutty first. I said that he had always been anxious that I should marry you. Something happened last night to increase his anxiety. I have often wondered how he managed to get enough money to enable him to spend three days in New York, and last night he told me. He came in just after I had got back to the house after leaving you and that girl, and he was very scared. It seems that when the letter from the London lawyer came telling him that he had been left a hundred dollars, he got the idea of raising money on the strength of it. You know Nutty by this time, so you won't be surprised at the way he went about it. He borrowed a hundred dollars from the man at the chemist's on the security of that letter, and then--I suppose it seemed so easy that it struck him as a pity to let the opportunity slip--he did the same thing with four other tradesmen. Nutty's so odd that I don't know even now whether it ever occurred to him that he was obtaining money under false pretences; but the poor tradesmen hadn't any doubt about it at all. They compared notes and found what had happened, and last night, while we were in the woods, one of them came here and called Nutty a good many names and threatened him with imprisonment.

'You can imagine how delighted Nutty was when I came in and told him that I was engaged to you. In his curious way, he took it for granted that I had heard about his financial operations, and was doing it entirely for his sake, to get him out of his fix. And while I was trying to put him right on that point he began to console me. You see, Nutty looks on you as the enemy of the family, and it didn't strike him that it was possible that I didn't look on you in that light too. So, after being delighted for a while, he very sweetly thought that he ought to cheer me up and point out some of the compensations of marriage with you. And--Well, that was what you heard. There you have the full explanation. You can't possibly believe it.'

She broke off and began to drum her fingers on the table. And as she did so there came to Bill a sudden relief from all the doubts and black thoughts that had tortured him. Elizabeth was straight. Whatever appearances might seem to suggest, nothing could convince him that she was playing an underhand game. It was as if something evil had gone out of him. He felt lighter, cleaner. He could breathe.

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'I do believe it,' he said. 'I believe every word you say.'

She shook her head.

'You can't in the face of the evidence.'

'I believe it.'

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'No. You may persuade yourself for the moment that you do, but after a while you will have to go by the evidence. You won't be able to help yourself. You haven't realized what a crushing thing evidence is. You have to go by it against your will. You see, evidence is the only guide. You don't know that I am speaking the truth; you just feel it. You're trusting your heart and not your head. The head must win in the end. You might go on believing for a time, but sooner or later you would be bound to begin to doubt and worry and torment yourself. You couldn't fight against the evidence, when once your instinct--or whatever it is that tells you that I am speaking the truth--had begun to weaken. And it would weaken. Think what it would have to be fighting all the time. Think of the case your intelligence would be making out, day after day, till it crushed you. It's impossible that you could keep yourself from docketing the evidence and arranging it and absorbing it. Think! Consider what you know are actual facts! Nutty invites you down here, knowing that you are Lord Dawlish. All you know about my attitude towards Lord Dawlish is what I told you on the first morning of your visit. I told you I hated him. Yet, knowing you are Lord Dawlish, I become engaged to you. Directly afterwards you hear Nutty consoling me as if I were marrying you against my will. Isn't that an absolutely fair statement of what has happened? How could you go on believing me with all that against you?'

'I know you're straight. You couldn't do anything crooked.'