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 her.
`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 manner.
`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 farmhouse tomorrow?'
`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 Corner.'
`Certainly. Todd's Corner is one of Mr Fairlie's farms. Our dairymaid 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 downstairs?'
She rang the bell, and sent the servant with his message. He returned, and announced that the dairymaid 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 tomorrow,' said Miss Halcombe, when the servant had left the room again. `In the meantime, let me thoroughly understand the object to be gained by my interview with Anne Catherick. Is there no doubt in your 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 importance -- even assuming that she really required to be placed under restraint -- to 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 sun of money, which no poor person could afford to give, must have been paid for her maintenance as a patient.'
`I see where the doubt lies, Mr Hartright, and I promise you that it shall be set at rest, whether Anne Catherick assists us tomorrow 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.
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