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Snow is falling and covering the house when she hears the knock at the door. The face that meets her gaze is sunken and hollow, ravaged with pain, and pitiful. His right arm is in a sling under his tattered military cloak. "My husband will never forgive me," she says with a sort of sob, opening the door to give him shelter. She has sworn to let no one in -- for the tax money he collected is hidden beneath the kitchen floorboards. Then in the night she hears the faint scratching -- someone working at the lock of the door, from the outside! Yet the haggard refugee is sleeping soundly . . . and who could want to break into such a poor house as this? Novelist Mary Cholmondeley (1859-1925), author of "Red Pottage" and "Diana Tempest," writes of escaped criminals, desperate thieves, and the mysteries of a seemingly loving family, in "The Lowest Rung and Others."