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HALF an hour later, I was back at the house,
and was informing Miss Halcombe of all that
had happened.

She listened to me from beginning to end, with
a steady, silent attention, which, in a woman of
her temperament and disposition, was the
strongest proof that could be offered of the
serious manner in which my narrative affected

"My mind misgives me," was all she said
when I had done. "My mind misgives me sadly
about the future."

"The future may depend," I suggested, "on
the use we make of the present. It is not
improbable that Anne Catherick may speak more
readily and unreservedly to a woman than she
has spoken to me. If Miss Fairlie—— "

"Not to be thought of for a moment,"
interposed Miss Halcombe, in her most decided

"Let me suggest, then," I continued, "that
you should see Anne Catherick yourself, and do
all you can to win her confidence. For my own
part, I shrink from the idea of alarming the
poor creature a second time, as I have most
unhappily alarmed her already. Do you see any
objection to accompanying me to the farm-house

"None whatever. I will go anywhere and do
anything to serve Laura's interests. What did
you say the place was called?"

"You must know it well. It is called Todd's

"Certainly. Todd's Corner is one of Mr.
Fairlie's farms. Our dairy-maid here is the
farmer's second daughter. She goes backwards
and forwards constantly, between this house and
her father's farm; and she may have heard or seen
something which it may be useful to us to know.
Shall I ascertain, at once, if the girl is down

She rang the bell, and sent the servant with
his message. He returned, and announced that
the dairy-maid was then at the farm. She had
not been there for the last three days; and the
housekeeper had given her leave to go home, for
an hour or two, that evening.

"I can speak to her to-morrow," said Miss
Halcombe, when the servant had left the room
again. "In the mean time, let me thoroughly
understand the object to be gained by my interview
with Anne Catherick. Is there no doubt
in your own mind that the person who confined
her in the Asylum was Sir Percival Glyde?"

"There is not the shadow of a doubt. The
only mystery that remains, is the mystery of his
motive. Looking to the great difference between
his station in life and hers, which seems to
preclude all idea of the most distant relationship
between them, it is of the last importanceeven
assuming that she really required to be placed
under restraintto know why he should have
been the person to assume the serious
responsibility of shutting her up——"

"In a private Asylum, I think you said?"

"Yes, in a private Asylum, where a sum of
money which no poor person could afford to give,
must have been paid for her maintenance as a

"I see where the doubt lies, Mr. Hartright;
and I promise you that it shall be set at rest,
whether Anne Catherick assists us to-morrow or
not. Sir Percival Glyde shall not be long in this
house without satisfying Mr. Gilmore, and
satisfying me. My sister's future is my dearest
care in life; and I have influence enough over
her to give me some power, where her marriage
is concerned, in the disposal of it."

We parted for the night.

After breakfast, the next morning, an obstacle,
which the events of the evening before had put
out of my memory, interposed to prevent our
proceeding immediately to the farm. This was
my last day at Limmeridge House; and it was
necessary, as soon as the post came in, to follow
Miss Halcombe's advice, and to ask Mr. Fairlie's
permission to shorten my engagement by a
month, in consideration of an unforeseen necessity
for my return to London.

Fortunately for the probability of this excuse,
so far as appearances were concerned, the post
brought me two letters from London friends, that
morning. I took them away at once to my own
room; and sent the servant with a message to Mr.
Fairlie, requesting to know when I could see him
on a matter of business.

I awaited the man's return, free from the
slightest feeling of anxiety about the manner in
which his master might receive my application.
With Mr. Fairlie's leave or without it, I must