Sybil grew at once perfectly calm, and standing before her sister, as though their r?les were henceforward to be reversed, said:
"You have really made up your mind, then? Nothing I can say will change it?"
Mrs. Lee, looking at her with more surprise than ever, could not force herself to speak; but she shook her head slowly and decidedly.
"Then," said Sybil, "there is only one thing more I can do. You must read this!" and she drew out Carrington's letter, which she held before Madeleine's face.
"Not now, Sybil!" remonstrated Mrs. Lee, dreading another long struggle. "I will read it after we have had some rest. Go to bed now!"
"I do not leave this room, nor will I ever go to bed until you have read that letter," answered Sybil, seating herself again before the fire with the resolution of Queen Elizabeth; "not if I sit here till you are married. I promised Mr. Carrington that you should read it instantly; it's all I can do now." With a sigh, Mrs. Lee drew up the window-curtain, and in the gray morning light sat down to break the seal and read the following letter:--
"My dear Mrs. Lee, "This letter will only come into your hands in case there should be a necessity for your knowing its contents. Nothing short of necessity would excuse my writing it. I have to ask your pardon for intruding again upon your private affairs. In this case, if I did not intrude, you would have cause for serious complaint against me.
"You asked me the other day whether I knew anything against Mr. Ratcliffe which the world did not know, to account for my low opinion of his character. I evaded your question then. I was bound by professional rules not to disclose facts that came to me under a pledge of confidence. I am going to violate these rules now, only because I owe you a duty which seems to me to override all others.