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"Put Freddy on it, dear. He's getting too stout. I never thought that gluttony was a crime. But when I look at Freddy"—checking her speech, she spread out her hands with an ineffable look—"I'm glad that Noel is coming," she ended, rather daringly. "At least he will be more interesting than any of these frivolous people you have collected."

Lady Garvington looked at her anxiously. "You don't mind Noel coming?"

"No, dear. Why should I?"

"Well you see, Agnes, I fancied—"

"Don't fancy anything. Noel and I entirely understand one another."

"I hope," blurted out the other woman, "that it is a right understanding?"

Agnes winced, and looked at her with enforced composure. "I am devoted to my husband," she said, with emphasis. "And I have every reason to be. He has kept his part of the bargain, so I keep mine. But," she added with a pale smile, "when I think how I sold myself to keep up the credit of the family, and now see Freddy entertaining this riff-raff, I am sorry that I did not marry Noel, whom I loved so dearly."

"That would have meant our ruin," bleated Lady Garvington, sadly.

"Your ruin is only delayed, Jane. Freddy is a weak, self-indulgent fool, and is eating his way into the next world. It will be a happy day for you when an apoplectic fit makes you a widow."

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"My dear," the wife was shocked, "he is your brother."

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"More's the pity. I have no illusions about Freddy, Jane, and I don't think you have either. Now, go away and sleep. It's no use lying awake thinking over to-morrow's dinner. Give Freddy the bread and water you talked about."

Lady Garvington laughed in a weak, aimless way, and then kissed her sister-in-law with a sigh, after which she drifted out of the room in her usual vague manner. Very shortly the clock over the stables struck midnight, and by that time Garvington the virtuous had induced all his men guests to go to bed. The women chatted a little longer, and then, in their turn, sought repose. By half-past twelve the great house was in complete darkness, and bulked a mighty mass of darkness in the pale September moonlight.

Lady Agnes got to bed quickly, and tired out by the boredom of the evening, quickly fell asleep. Suddenly she awoke with all her senses on the alert, and with a sense of vague danger hovering round. There were sounds of running feet and indistinct oaths and distant cries, and she could have sworn that a pistol-shot had startled her from slumber. In a moment she was out of bed and ran to open her window. On looking out she saw that the moonlight was very brilliant, and in it beheld a tall man running swiftly from the house. He sped down the broad path, and just when he was abreast of a miniature shrubbery, she heard a second shot, which seemed to be fired there-from. The man staggered, and stumbled and fell. Immediately afterwards, her brother—she recognized his voice raised in anger—ran out of the house, followed by some of the male guests. Terrified by the sight and the sound of the shots, Lady Agnes huddled on her dressing-gown hastily, and thrust her bare feet into slippers. The next moment she was out of her bedroom and down the stairs. A wild idea had entered her mind that perhaps Lambert had come secretly to The Manor, and had been shot by Garvington in mistake for a burglar. The corridors and the hall were filled with guests more or less lightly attired, mostly women, white-faced and startled. Agnes paid no attention to their shrieks, but hurried into the side passage which terminated at the door out of which her brother had left the house. She went outside also and made for the group round the fallen man.

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"What is it? who is it?" she asked, gasping with the hurry and the fright.

"Go back, Agnes, go back," cried Garvington, looking up with a distorted face, strangely pale in the moonlight.