"Yes, sir. A gentleman born and brought up, who ought to have set a better example. You know him, sir--and my poor dear Anne knew him only too well."

"Sir Percival Glyde?"

"Yes, Sir Percival Glyde."

My heart beat fast--I thought I had my hand on the clue. How little I knew then of the windings of the labyrinths which were still to mislead me!

"Did Sir Percival live in your neighbourhood at that time?" I asked.

"No, sir. He came among us as a stranger. His father had died not long before in foreign parts. I remember he was in mourning. He put up at the little inn on the river (they have pulled it down since that time), where gentlemen used to go to fish. He wasn't much noticed when he first came--it was a common thing enough for gentlemen to travel from all parts of England to fish in our river."

"Did he make his appearance in the village before Anne was born?"

"Yes, sir. Anne was born in the June month of eighteen hundred and twenty-seven--and I think he came at the end of April or the beginning of May."

"Came as a stranger to all of you? A stranger to Mrs. Catherick as well as to the rest of the neighbours?"

"So we thought at first, sir. But when the scandal broke out, nobody believed they were strangers. I remember how it happened as well as if it was yesterday. Catherick came into our garden one night, and woke us by throwing up a handful of gravel from the walk at our window. I heard him beg my husband, for the Lord's sake, to come down and speak to him. They were a long time together talking in the porch. When my husband came back upstairs he was all of a tremble. He sat down on the side of the bed and he says to me, 'Lizzie! I always told you that woman was a bad one--I always said she would end ill, and I'm afraid in my own mind that the end has come already. Catherick has found a lot of lace handkerchiefs, and two fine rings, and a new gold watch and chain, hid away in his wife's drawer--things that nobody but a born lady ought ever to have--and his wife won't say how she came by them.' 'Does he think she stole them?' says I. 'No,' says he, 'stealing would be bad enough. But it's worse than that, she's had no chance of stealing such things as those, and she's not a woman to take them if she had. They're gifts, Lizzie--there's her own initials engraved inside the watch--and Catherick has seen her talking privately, and carrying on as no married woman should, with that gentleman in mourning, Sir Percival Glyde. Don't you say anything about it--I've quieted Catherick for to-night. I've told him to keep his tongue to himself, and his eyes and his ears open, and to wait a day or two, till he can be quite certain.' 'I believe you are both of you wrong,' says I. 'It's not in nature, comfortable and respectable as she is here, that Mrs. Catherick should take up with a chance stranger like Sir Percival Glyde.' 'Ay, but is he a stranger to her?' says my husband. 'You forget how Catherick's wife came to marry him. She went to him of her own accord, after saying No over and over again when he asked her. There have been wicked women before her time, Lizzie, who have used honest men who loved them as a means of saving their characters, and I'm sorely afraid this Mrs. Catherick is as wicked as the worst of them. We shall see,' says my husband, 'we shall soon see.' And only two days afterwards we did see."

Mrs. Clements waited for a moment before she went on. Even in that moment, I began to doubt whether the clue that I thought I had found was really leading me to the central mystery of the labyrinth after all. Was this common, too common, story of a man's treachery and a woman's frailty the key to a secret which had been the lifelong terror of Sir Percival Glyde?

"Well, sir, Catherick took my husband's advice and waited," Mrs. Clements continued. "And as I told you, he hadn't long to wait. On the second day he found his wife and Sir Percival whispering together quite familiar, close under the vestry of the church. I suppose they thought the neighbourhood of the vestry was the last place in the world where anybody would think of looking after them, but, however that may be, there they were. Sir Percival, being seemingly surprised and confounded, defended himself in such a guilty way that poor Catherick (whose quick temper I have told you of already) fell into a kind of frenzy at his own disgrace, and struck Sir Percival. He was no match (and I am sorry to say it) for the man who had wronged him, and he was beaten in the cruelest manner, before the neighbours, who had come to the place on hearing the disturbance, could run in to part them. All this happened towards evening, and before nightfall, when my husband went to Catherick's house, he was gone, nobody knew where. No living soul in the village ever saw him again. He knew too well, by that time, what his wife's vile reason had been for marrying him, and he felt his misery and disgrace, especially after what had happened to him with Sir Percival, too keenly. The clergyman of the parish put an advertisement in the paper begging him to come back, and saying that he should not lose his situation or his friends. But Catherick had too much pride and spirit, as some people said--too much feeling, as I think, sir--to face his neighbours again, and try to live down the memory of his disgrace. My husband heard from him when he had left England, and heard a second time, when he was settled and doing well in America. He is alive there now, as far as I know, but none of us in the old country--his wicked wife least of all--are ever likely to set eyes on him again."

"What became of Sir Percival?" I inquired. "Did he stay in the neighbourhood?"

"Not he, sir. The place was too hot to hold him. He was heard at high words with Mrs. Catherick the same night when the scandal broke out, and the next morning he took himself off."

"And Mrs. Catherick? Surely she never remained in the village among the people who knew of her disgrace?"