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The Lair of the White Worm

20. Metabolism
"Am I looking grave?" asked Sir Nathaniel inconsequently when he re- entered the room.
"You certainly are, sir."
"We little thought when first we met that we should be drawn into such a vortex. Already
we are mixed up in robbery, and probably murder, but--a thousand times worse than all
the crimes in the calendar--in an affair of ghastly mystery which has no bottom and no
end--with forces of the most unnerving kind, which had their origin in an age when the
world was different from the world which we know. We are going back to the origin of
superstition--to an age when dragons tore each other in their slime. We must fear
nothing--no conclusion, however improbable, almost impossible it may be. Life and
death is hanging on our judgment, not only for ourselves, but for others whom we love.
Remember, I count on you as I hope you count on me."
"I do, with all confidence."
"Then," said Sir Nathaniel, "let us think justly and boldly and fear nothing, however
terrifying it may seem. I suppose I am to take as exact in every detail your account of all
the strange things which happened whilst you were in Diana's Grove?"
"So far as I know, yes. Of course I may be mistaken in recollection of some detail or
another, but I am certain that in the main what I have said is correct."
"You feel sure that you saw Lady Arabella seize the negro round the neck, and drag him
down with her into the hole?"
"Absolutely certain, sir, otherwise I should have gone to her assistance."
"We have, then, an account of what happened from an eye-witness whom we trust--that is
yourself. We have also another account, written by Lady Arabella under her own hand.
These two accounts do not agree. Therefore we must take it that one of the two is lying."
"Apparently, sir."
"And that Lady Arabella is the liar!"
"Apparently--as I am not."
"We must, therefore, try to find a reason for her lying. She has nothing to fear from
Oolanga, who is dead. Therefore the only reason which could actuate her would be to
convince someone else that she was blameless. This 'someone' could not be you, for you
had the evidence of your own eyes. There was no one else present; therefore it must have
been an absent person."
 
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