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watching, at the other end of the room, a game of chess which the fair Constance was playing with his son, and Sir Charles was indulging in his evening sleep nearer to the fireside. Cécile cast a wild, tremulous glance around her, and then running to her uncle's arm-chair, kissed him gently upon his forehead, as she was wont to do in younger and happier days.
“Ah! what is it ?” murmured the halfaroused Baronet.
“It was only I, dearest uncle, wishing you good night," whispered Saint Cecilia.
“Oh! good night, my dear, good night!" replied he, returning her embrace ere he composed himself again to rest.
Cécile duly escorted her aunt to the door of her apartment. When they had reached it, she respectfully said good night to her, half extending at the same time a somewhat diffident hand. But this Lady Helen, though not shortsighted, did not doubtless perceive, as she merely responded, in a haughty and distant tone, to the former compliment.
THE THREE LETTERS.
- The elder members of the family assembled for breakfast at the usual hour on the following morning, and they were very speedily joined by St. Edmunds and Constance; but Cécile not having yet appeared, her cousin assumed the responsible office of making and distributing the tea.
“What is become of Mademoiselle ?” cried Sir Charles, when the repast was half concluded. “ She is breaking out, that girl, upon my word she is ! she has been twice late within the last ten days."
“I am ashamed to say that I have not seen her this morning,” replied the smiling Conny; “ for I was late myself, and rushed straight down.”
“I suppose that she is engaged in cutting one of her hands off now," observed Lady Helen.
Though this conjecture was uttered rather ironically than seriously, it seemed to make no small impression upon Constance, for, with an anxious look, she put down the cup that she was holding in her hand, and glided swiftly out of the room.
When, within a very few minutes, she returned, she was as pale as death—it is a real fact, though it may surprise those to whom the radiant hue of Constance Basinstoke's complexion is familiar. Never had the phenomenon been observed before, and yet the fair Constance's cheeks were actually colourless, as slipping back into her chair, she exclaimed:
“ It is done now! I have long foreseen that you would drive her to it.”
A general and confused exclamation of amazement was the sole reply.
"I knew that it would come to this,” resumed Constance, handing to her father a sealed letter addressed to him, and proceeding to open another for herself. “These are all that I have found.”
The letter to Sir Charles Basinstoke was as follows:
“My dearest Uncle, “I am leaving, for ever, your happy, happy home. Conny will tell you all, for I have neither time nor courage to write it now. Do not blame me and do not mourn for me. Believe me that I am consulting my own happiness and welfare no less than those of others, while giving you, I trust, the surest proof of my lifelong gratitude for all your unfailing kindness.
“ Commend me respectfully to Lady Helen. It would be the mere mockery of a sacred sentiment to say that I am grateful to her. Still, if she conceives that she has - anything to pardon, may she forgive as earnestly and sincerely as I do. You must deliver another message for me, dearest uncle. Pray kindly tell Lord Tewkesbury, that I trust he will now understand why I
was so deeply moved yesterday morning. The enclosed letter for Lord St. Edmunds, which either he or you can deliver, will be found, I doubt not, fully to redeem the pledge I gave him.
“And now, my dearest uncle, think no more of poor Mademoiselle, who is happily and honourably disposed of. And yet, you must not quite forget her, either. You will remember her sometimes, not as she must have seemed in these last and miserable months, but as she was in the olden times, when she used to sit upon your knee, and her joyous laugh would recall to you her father's. None will hear that laugh again ; still she will be happy, and you must be so likewise.
“Farewell. My hourly prayer will be for every blessing from heaven upon you and yours.
Though the writing was, in many places, defaced by sundry little blots of some very strongly diluted ink, the worthy Baronet read the letter through with tolerable freedom; but