"Yes," said Garvington, rapidly making up his mind to adopt a certain course about which he wished his wife to know nothing. "I'll lie down, Jane."

"And don't take any more wine," warned Jane, as she drifted out of the dining-room. "You are quite red as it is, dear."

But Freddy did not take this advice, but drank glass after glass until he became pot-valiant. He needed courage, as he intended to go all by himself to the lonely Abbot's Wood Cottage and interview Silver. It occurred to Freddy that if he could induce the secretary to give up Miss Greeby to justice, Mother Cockleshell, out of gratitude, might surrender to him the sum of one million pounds. Of course, the old hag might have been talking all round the shop, and her offer might be bluff, but it was worth taking into consideration. Garvington, thinking that there was no time to lose, since his cousin might be beforehand in denouncing the guilty woman, hurried on his fur overcoat, and after leaving a lying statement with the butler that he had gone to bed, he went out by the useful blue door. In a few minutes he was trotting along the well-known path making up his mind what to say to Silver. The interview did not promise to be an easy one.

"I wish I could do without him," thought the treacherous little scoundrel as he left his own property and struck across the waste ground beyond the park wall. "But I can't, dash it all, since he's the only person who saw the crime actually committed. 'Course he'll get jailed as an accessory-after-the-fact: but when he comes out I'll give him a thousand or so if the old woman parts. At all events, I'll see what Silver is prepared to do, and then I'll call on old Cockleshell and make things right with her. Hang it," Freddy had a qualmish feeling. "The exposure won't be pleasant for me over that unlucky letter, but if I can snaffle a million, it's worth it. Curse the honor of the family, I've got to look after myself somehow. Ho! ho!" he chuckled as he remembered his cousin. "What a sell for Noel when he finds that I've taken the wind out of his sails. Serve him jolly well right."

In this way Garvington kept up his spirits during the walk, and felt entirely cheerful and virtuous by the time he reached the cottage. In the thin, cold moonlight, the wintry wood looked spectral and wan. The sight of the frowning monoliths, the gaunt, frozen trees and the snow-powdered earth, made the luxurious little man shiver. Also the anticipated conversation rather daunted him, although he decided that after all Silver was but a feeble creature who could be easily managed. What Freddy forgot was that he lacked pluck himself, and that Silver, driven into a corner, might fight with the courage of despair. The sight of the secretary's deadly white and terrified face as he opened the door sufficient to peer out showed that he was at bay.

"If you come in I'll shoot," he quavered, brokenly. "I'll—I'll brain you with the poker. I'll throw hot water on you, and—and scratch out your—your—"

"Come, come," said Garvington, boldly. "It's only me—a friend!"

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Silver recognized the voice and the dumpy figure of his visitor. At once he dragged him into the passage and barred the door quickly, breathing hard meanwhile. "I don't mind you," he giggled, hysterically. "You're in the same boat with me, my lord. But I fancied when you knocked that the police—the police"—his voice died weakly in his throat: he cast a wild glance around and touched his neck uneasily as though he already felt the hangman's rope encircling it.

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Garvington did not approve of this grim pantomime, and swore. "I'm quite alone, damn you," he said roughly. "It's all right, so far!" He sat down and loosened his overcoat, for the place was like a Turkish bath for heat. "I want a drink. You've been priming yourself, I see," and he pointed to a decanter of port wine and a bottle of brandy which were on the table along with a tray of glasses. "Silly ass you are to mix."

"I'm—I'm—keeping up my—my spirits," giggled Silver, wholly unnerved, and pouring out the brandy with a shaking hand. "There you are, my lord. There's water, but no soda."

"Keeping up your spirits by pouring spirits down," said Garvington, venturing on a weak joke. "You're in a state of siege, too."

Silver certainly was. He had bolted the shutters, and had piled furniture against the two windows of the room. On the table beside the decanter and bottles of brandy, lay a poker, a heavy club which Lambert had brought from Africa, and had left behind when he gave up the cottage, a revolver loaded in all six chambers, and a large bread knife. Apparently the man was in a dangerous state of despair and was ready to give the officers of the law a hostile welcome when they came to arrest him. He touched the various weapons feverishly.