to your wishes, may I venture to ask who"—(I hesitated; I had forced myself to think of him, but it was harder still to speak of him, as her promised husband)—"who the gentleman engaged to Miss Fairlie is?"
Her mind was evidently occupied with the message she had received from her sister. She answered in a hasty, absent way—
"A gentleman of large property in Hampshire."
Hampshire! Anne Catherick's native place. Again, and yet again, the woman in white. There was a fatality in it.
"And his name?" I said, as quietly and indifferently as I could.
"Sir Percival Glyde."
Sir—Sir Percival! Anne Catherick's question—that suspicious question about the men of the rank of Baronet whom I might happen to know—had hardly been dismissed from my mind by Miss Halcombe's return to me in the summer-house, before it was recalled again by her own answer. I stopped suddenly, and looked at her.
"Sir Percival Glyde," she repeated, imagining that I had not heard her former reply.
"Knight, or Baronet?" I asked, with an agitation that I could hide no longer.
She paused for a moment, and then answered, rather coldly—
"Baronet, of course."
Not a word more was said, on either side, as we walked back to the house. Miss Halcombe hastened immediately to her sister's room; and I withdrew to my studio to set in order all of Mr. Fairlie's drawings that I had not yet mounted and restored before I resigned them to the care of other hands. Thoughts that I had hitherto restrained, thoughts that made my position harder than ever to endure, crowded on me now that I was alone.
She was engaged to be married, and her future husband was Sir Percival Glyde. A man of the rank of Baronet, and the owner of property in Hampshire.
There were hundreds of baronets in England, and dozens of landowners in Hampshire. Judging by the ordinary rules of evidence, I had not the shadow of a reason, thus far, for connecting Sir Percival Glyde with the suspicious words of inquiry that had been spoken to me by the woman in white.