Catherick is the first necessity: make your mind easy about the rest. Your wife is here, under your thumb; Miss Halcombe is inseparable from her, and is, therefore, under your thumb also; and Mr. Hartright is out of the country. This invisible Anne of yours, is all we have to think of for the present. You have made your inquiries?"
"Yes. I have been to her mother; I have ransacked the village—and all to no purpose."
"Is her mother to be depended on?"
"She has told your secret once."
"She won't tell it again."
"Why not? Are her own interests concerned in keeping it, as well as yours?"
"I am glad to hear it, Percival, for your sake. Don't be discouraged, my friend. Our money matters, as I told you, leave me plenty of time to turn round in; and I may search for Anne Catherick to-morrow to better purpose than you. One last question before we go to bed."
"What is it?"
"It is this. When I went to the boat-house to tell Lady Glyde that the little difficulty of her signature was put off, accident took me there in time to see a strange woman parting in a very suspicious manner from your wife. But accident did not bring me near enough to see this same woman's face plainly. I must know how to recognise our invisible Anne. What is she like?"
"Like? Come! I'll tell you in two words. She's a sickly likeness of my wife."
The chair creaked, and the pillar shook once more. The Count was on his feet again—this time in astonishment.
"What!!!" he exclaimed eagerly.
"Fancy my wife, after a bad illness, with a touch of something wrong in her head—and there is Anne Catherick for you," answered Sir Percival.
"Are they related to each other?"
"Not a bit of it."
"And yet so like?"
"Yes, so like. What are you laughing about?"
There was no answer, and no sound of any kind. The Count was laughing in his smooth silent internal way.
"What are you laughing about?" reiterated Sir Percival.
"Perhaps at my own fancies, my good friend. Allow me my Italian humour—do I not come of the illustrious