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Author's Chapter Notes:


Charlie and Augusta arrived in the sitting room and stopped short, their jaws dropping as they saw the window – or rather the window frame, from which the window itself was largely absent. Unfortunately they came to so abrupt a halt that Charles and David, who had been close at their heels, cannoned into them, felling Augusta instantly. Charlie, with a shriek, grabbed at both of them in an attempt to save herself, but only succeeded in bringing their heads together with a violently audible crack. With yells of pain, they collapsed on top of Augusta, who had just begun to haul herself to her feet.

Someone Augusta didn’t know grabbed Charles and hauled him off the floor. Augusta extracted herself from beneath her husband and poked him with her foot.

“David, you’ve got your elbow in Charlie’s mouth.”

“What the hell did you think you were doing?” he demanded as he rose to his feet, having carefully removed his elbow from Charlie’s face with a gentlemanly scowl. “Stopping like that.”

“Don’t swear in front of the children,” said Augusta.

“The children aren’t here!” shouted David. “Damnation!” he added, catching sight of them through the window.

Charlie was already staring through the hole where the window had been, the stranger beside her.

“What on earth is going on?” she demanded, eyeing her eldest daughter severely.

Before Millie could get her indignant reply out, David had loomed up behind her mother.

“What the devil do you think has happened?” he said.

“Are you hurt?” asked the stranger, who seemed to be more concerned about Hilda Straw, who was still lying on the grass among the splinters and shards of glass. He did not appear in the least disturbed by the withering look she gave him, but leaned forward, apparently with the intent of helping her to her feet. Instead, he felt a sharp jab in his stomach, tried to reverse, found that he had gone too far and tumbled gently out of the window, Charlie grabbing ineffectually at his foot as it vanished.

“Rix – are you hurt? Ow!” Charlie sucked her hand, which she had inadvertently put on a shard which was left in the frame. “Look, be careful, you two. We’ll come and pick you up.”

“Good idea,” said David, suiting the action to the word by stepping out of the window onto the grass and glass below. Augusta hastily grabbed Charlie as she showed signs of following.

“I think the rest of us should go round,” she said.

Five minutes later Hilda and the stranger had been removed from their uncomfortable resting place – they found out later that David had performed this office by simply lifting Hilda up and dumping her on the ground a few feet away – and found to have only minimal injuries. Rix Bettany had been introduced to the Emersons and Hilda, the last of whom had merely looked majestically down her nose at him – a feat she managed with surprising ease considering that she was a good six inches shorter than he was.

“Millie, what happened?” said Charles sternly.

“Nothing!” said Millie, a little ridiculously considering the circumstances. “I mean – I don’t know. We just heard the crash and came to see.”

Sphinx folded his arms.

“I’m afraid it’s true,” he said.

With one accord they all turned to Hilda and Rix.

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