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Two on a Tower

Chapter 32
What to do she could not tell. The step which Swithin had entreated her to take,
objectionable and premature as it had seemed in a county aspect, would at all events have
saved her from this dilemma. Had she allowed him to tell the Bishop his simple story in
its fulness, who could say but that that divine might have generously bridled his own
impulses, entered into the case with sympathy, and forwarded with zest their designs for
the future, owing to his interest of old in Swithin's father, and in the naturally attractive
features of the young man's career.
A puff of wind from the open window, wafting the Bishop's letter to the floor, aroused
her from her reverie. With a sigh she stooped and picked it up, glanced at it again; then
arose, and with the deliberateness of inevitable action wrote her reply:--
'WELLAND HOUSE, June 29, 18--. 'MY DEAR BISHOP OF MELCHESTER,--I
confess to you that your letter, so gracious and flattering as it is, has taken your friend
somewhat unawares. The least I can do in return for its contents is to reply as quickly as
possible.
'There is no one in the world who esteems your high qualities more than myself, or who
has greater faith in your ability to adorn the episcopal seat that you have been called on to
fill. But to your question I can give only one reply, and that is an unqualified negative. To
state this unavoidable decision distresses me, without affectation; and I trust you will
believe that, though I decline the distinction of becoming your wife, I shall never cease to
interest myself in all that pertains to you and your office; and shall feel the keenest regret
if this refusal should operate to prevent a lifelong friendship between us.--I am, my dear
Bishop of Melchester, ever sincerely yours, 'VIVIETTE CONSTANTINE.'
A sudden revulsion from the subterfuge of writing as if she were still a widow, wrought
in her mind a feeling of dissatisfaction with the whole scheme of concealment; and
pushing aside the letter she allowed it to remain unfolded and unaddressed. In a few
minutes she heard Swithin approaching, when she put the letter out of the way and turned
to receive him.
Swithin entered quietly, and looked round the room. Seeing with unexpected pleasure
that she was there alone, he came over and kissed her. Her discomposure at some
foregone event was soon obvious.
'Has my staying caused you any trouble?' he asked in a whisper. 'Where is your brother
this morning?'
She smiled through her perplexity as she took his hand. 'The oddest things happen to me,
dear Swithin,' she said. 'Do you wish particularly to know what has happened now?'
'Yes, if you don't mind telling me.'
 
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