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There was a long silence. Margaret's face was aflame, but her heart felt like ice. Peter Kennedy to be dragged in, to have to defend herself from such a charge! And Gabriel yet to be told! She covered her eyes, but was conscious presently that the man was standing beside her, speaking.

"Margaret!" His voice was as unhappy as hers, his face ravaged. "It is not my fault. I'd give my life it hadn't happened. That night you had the heart attack I did stay for hours, prowled about … then slept on the drawing-room sofa. Margaret …"

"Oh! hush! hush!"

"You must listen, we must think what is best to be done," he said desperately. "Let me go up to London and see her. I'm sure I can manage something. It's not … it's not as if there were anything in it." His tactlessness was innate, he meant so well but blundered hopelessly, even putting a hand on her knee in the intensity of his sympathy. She shook it off as if he had been the most obnoxious of insects. "Let me go up and see her," he pleaded. "Authorise me to act. May I see if there is an answer to my telegram? I sent it a little before nine. May I telephone?"

"Do what you like."

"You loathe me."

"I wish you had never been born."

He was gone ten minutes … a quarter of an