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Title: An Old Man's Darling
Author: Miller, Alex. McVeigh, Mrs.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Old Man's Darling" ***

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of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



  An Old Man's Darling


  BY

  MRS. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER

  AUTHOR OF

  "LITTLE COQUETTE BONNIE," "THE SENATOR'S BRIDE," ETC.


  [Illustration]


  NEW YORK

  STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS

  238 WILLIAM STREET



  Copyright, 1883,

  By NORMAN L. MUNRO

  Copyright, 1900,

  By STREET & SMITH



AN OLD MAN'S DARLING.

BY MRS. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I.
  CHAPTER II.
  CHAPTER III.
  CHAPTER IV.
  CHAPTER V.
  CHAPTER VI.
  CHAPTER VII.
  CHAPTER VIII.
  CHAPTER IX.
  CHAPTER X.
  CHAPTER XI.
  CHAPTER XII.
  CHAPTER XIII.
  CHAPTER XIV.
  CHAPTER XV.
  CHAPTER XVI.
  CHAPTER XVII.
  CHAPTER XVIII.
  CHAPTER XIX.
  CHAPTER XX.
  CHAPTER XXI.
  CHAPTER XXII.
  CHAPTER XXIII.
  CHAPTER XXIV.
  CHAPTER XXV.
  CHAPTER XXVI.
  CHAPTER XXVII.
  CHAPTER XXVIII.
  CHAPTER XXIX.
  CHAPTER XXX.
  CHAPTER XXXI.
  CHAPTER XXXII.
  CHAPTER XXXIII.
  CHAPTER XXXIV.
  CHAPTER XXXV.
  CHAPTER XXXVI.
  CHAPTER XXXVII.
  CHAPTER XXXVIII.
  CHAPTER XXXIX.



CHAPTER I.


    "The sea, the sea, the open sea;
     The blue, the fresh, the ever free,"

chanted the fresh and delicious voice of a young girl walking along the
sands of the seashore in the summer sunshine at Cape May.

"Cross my palm with silver, and I'll tell your fortune, bonnie maid,"
said a cracked, discordant voice.

The singer paused abruptly, and looked at the owner of the voice--a
lean, decrepit old hag, who extended her withered hand imploringly.

"Nay, now, good soul," answered she, with a merry laugh, "fortune will
come to me anyway, even if I keep my silver piece."

"Aye--aye, it will," said the old crone, wagging her head like a bird
of evil omen; "it aye comes to faces as bonny as your own. But it's I
that can tell you whether it be good or ill fortune."

"Here, then," said the girl, still laughing, and putting a silver piece
into the trembling old hand; "be cheerful, now, and tell me a brave
fortune for my money."

The old sibyl did not appear to relish the light and jesting tone
of the other, and stood for a moment gazing at her in grave and
portentous silence.

What a contrast the two presented as they stood looking at each other!

The girl was beautiful, with all the delicate freshness and slimness of
eighteen. She was a dazzling blonde, with sea-blue eyes, and hair like
spun gold falling beneath her jaunty sailor hat in long, loose curls
to her graceful waist. She was fair as a lily, with a flush like the
heart of a sea-shell on her round, dimpled cheeks. Her brow was fair
and broad, and fringed with soft, childish rings of sunny hair. Her
nose was small and straight; her mouth was curved like Cupid's bow, its
short, exquisite upper lip lending a touch of archness to the patrician
mold of her features. The small, delicately shaped hands and feet were
in keeping with the rare beauty of her face and form. She was simply
clad in a jaunty sailor costume of dark blue serge trimmed with white
braid and pearl buttons, and carried a volume of poems in her gloved
hand.

As contrasted with this peerless beauty and youthful grace the old
sibyl appeared hideous as a fiend beside an angel.

She was diminutive in stature, and bent nearly double with the weight
of years. Her scanty, streaming white hair was in odd contrast with
the dark, parchment-like skin and jet-black eyes that sparkled with
a keen and unnatural brightness. A wicked, malevolent expression was
the prevailing cast of her wrinkled features, and her cheeks and lips
having fallen in upon her toothless gums, converted her grim smile into
a most Satanic grin. The dreadful old beldam was attired in a _melange_
of ancient and faded finery, consisting of a frayed and dirty quilted
satin petticoat and an overdress of rich brocade, whose original
brilliant oriental hues were almost obliterated by time and ill-usage.
She gathered these faded relics about her with a certain air of pride
as she said to the young girl:

"Sit ye down upon the stone there, and let me look at your palm."

She was obeyed with a demure smile by the listener, who drew off her
glove and presented the loveliest hand in the world for inspection--a
lily-white hand, small, and dimpled, and tapering, with rosy palm and
tips--a perfect hand that might have been enclosed in a glass case and
looked at only as a "thing of beauty."

The sibyl took that dainty bit of flesh and blood into her brown,
wrinkled claws, and scanned it intently.

"You are well-born," she said, slowly.

"You can tell that much by the shape of my nose, I suppose," laughed
the girl, mischievously.

The old hag glanced at the elegant, aristocratic little member in
question and frowned.

"I can tell by your hand," said she, shortly: "Not but that it is
written on your features also--for you are very beautiful."

"Others have told me so before," said the girl, with her musical,
light-hearted laugh.

"Peace, will-'o-the-wisp!" said the old woman, sternly. "Do not pride
yourself upon that fatal gift! You are lovely as an angel, but your
beauty will be your _bane_."

"But beauty wins _love_," cried the listener, artlessly, while a rosy
blush stained her fair brow and cheeks.

"Aye, aye, it wins love," was the crusty answer. "Your life will have
enough of love, be sure. But beauty wins _hate_, too. The love that is
lavished on you will be shadowed and darkened by the hate your fair
face will inspire. Do not think you will be happy because you are
beautiful. Years of wretchedness lie before you!"

"Oh! no," said the girl, with an involuntary shiver.

"It is true," said the sibyl, peering into the hand that she held. "If
you could read this little pink palm as I do, you would go wild with
the horror of it. The line of life is crossed with sorrows. Sorrow and
shame lie darkly over your future."

"Not _shame_," said the young girl, cresting her small head with a
queenly gesture of pride. "Sorrow, perhaps; but never _shame_!"

"It is written," answered the old woman, sharply. "Do you think to
alter the decrees of fate with your idle words, proud girl? No, no;
there will be a stain on the whiteness of your life that your tears can
never wash out. Love and hate will brand it there. You will be a young
man's bride, but an old man's darling."

She paused, and a faint smile dimpled the young girl's cheek.
Apparently the latter prediction did not seem to overwhelm her as the
witch expected.

"I have been an old man's darling all my life," she said gently. "I
assure you it is very pleasant."

"Girl, I meant not the tie of consanguinity," cried the sibyl, sharply.
"You do not understand. Ah! you will know soon enough; for I tell you,
girl, a cloud is gathering over your head; gathering swiftly to burst
over you in a tempest of fury. Fly! Fly! Go and cast yourself into
those raging Atlantic waves yonder, rather than breast the torrent of
sorrow about to break upon your life!"

Her voice had risen almost to a pitch of fury with the last words, and
her eyes flashed as with the light of inspiration. She cast a strange
look upon the trembling girl, and, dropping her hand abruptly, turned
away, hobbling out of sight with a rapidity that scarcely seemed
possible in one so stricken with age.

The young girl, who a moment ago had seemed so blithe and _debonair_,
sat still a few moments where the sibyl had left her, looking curiously
into the pink palm from which such dire prophecies had been read. She
looked like one dazed, and a slight pallor had momentarily usurped the
rose tint on her cheek.

"How earnestly the old creature talked," she murmured, musingly, "as
if that horrid jargon of hers could be true. What is there in my hand
but a few lines that mean nothing? She saw that I did not believe in
her art, and predicted those dreadful things merely to punish me for my
doubt. Heigho! I have never had a sorrow in my life and never expect to
have one."

She drew on her glove, and taking up her volume of poems, pursued her
way along the shore, looking a little more thoughtful than when she had
tripped that way a little while before singing in the lightness of her
heart.

After walking a short distance she paused, and selecting a shady seat,
sat down where she could watch the blue waves of the ocean rolling in,
crested with snowy foam, and the wild flight of the sea-birds wheeling
in the sunny air, and darting down now and then for some object of
prey their keen eyes discerned in the water. After watching these
objects for awhile she grew weary, and, opening her book, began to read
fitfully, turning the pages at random, as if only half her heart was in
the task.

She had been reading perhaps half an hour when the light dip of oars
in the water saluted her ears. She looked up quickly and saw a fairy
little skiff with one occupant coming around a curve of the shore
toward her. The skiff was very dainty, with trimly cushioned seats. It
was painted in shining blue and white, and bore around about the prow
in letters of blue and gold, the fanciful name, "Bonnibel." The single
occupant, a young man singularly handsome and resolute-looking, called
out as he neared the shore:

"I have borrowed your skiff very unceremoniously, Miss Vere; but since
I have been detected in the theft, may I not persuade you to leave your
lonely eyrie there, and accompany me in my little pleasure-trip this
evening?"



CHAPTER II.


Bonnibel Vere closed her book and sprang up with a blush and smile of
pleasure.

"Of course you know that I cannot refuse the invitation," said she,
brightly. "I am just dying to talk to some one."

"Woman-like!" answered Leslie Dane, laughing, as he assisted her to a
seat.

"I suppose you never find your high majesty in a like predicament,"
said she, rather pettishly, as the skiff swept out into the blue,
encircling waves.

He smiled at the childish air of offended dignity she assumed.

"_Au contraire_," he answered, gaily, "it was only this evening that
I was experiencing a like feeling. For instance, when I captured your
skiff and set forth alone I was just dying to have you along with me
to talk to. And now I have my wish and you have yours. We are very
fortunate!"

"Do you think so?" she inquired, carelessly. "If gratified wishes make
one fortunate, then I have been fortunate all my life. Uncle Francis
has never refused to indulge me in anything I ever set my heart upon."

"He has been very kind, then, and you ought to be a very happy girl,"
he answered; "yet you were looking rather grave and thoughtful this
evening as I came around the curve. Was your book so very interesting?"

"It failed to awaken an interest in me," she answered, simply, "for I
was thinking of other things."

"Of weighty and momentous matters, no doubt," he commented.

"Perhaps so," she answered. "Come now, Mr. Dane, guess what I have been
doing this evening."

"It would be a hard task to follow the movements of so erratic a star
as Miss Bonnibel Vere," he said in a light tone of railery, yet looking
at her with all his manly heart in his large, dreamy, dark eyes. "Do
not keep me in suspense, fair lady, this sultry evening. Confess."

She looked up, and, meeting his ardent glance, dropped her eyes until
the long, curling lashes hid them from view. A scarlet banner fluttered
into her cheeks like a danger signal.

"I have been getting my fortune told--there!" said she, laughing.

"Whew!" said Mr. Dane in profound surprise. "Getting your fortune told!
And by whom, may I ask?"

"Oh, by a horrid old crone who stepped into my path on my way here and
demanded a piece of silver and wished to foretell my future. Of course,
I do not believe in such things at all, but I humored the poor old soul
just for fun, you know, and a dreadful prediction she gave me for my
money."

"Let me hear it," said Leslie Dane, smiling.

Bonnibel recounted the words and gestures of the old sibyl with patient
exactness and inimitable mimicry to her interested listener.

"It was Wild Madge, no doubt," said he, when she had finished. "I have
seen her several times on the shore, and I made quite an effective
picture of her once, though I dare say the old witch would want to
murder me if she knew it. The gossips hereabouts assert that she can
read the future very truly."

"You do not believe it--do you?" asked she, looking up with a gleam of
something like dread in her beautiful blue orbs.

"Believe it--of course not," said he, contemptuously. "There were but
two things she told you that I place any faith in."

"What are they?" she questioned, anxiously.

"I believe you will be an old man's darling, for I know you are that
already. Your Uncle Francis loves the very ground you walk upon, to use
a homely expression, and, Bonnibel," he paused, his voice lingering
over the sound of her name with inexpressible tenderness.

"Well?" she said, looking up with an innocent inquiry in her eyes.

"And, Bonnibel--forgive my daring, little one--I believe you will be a
young man's bride if you will let me make you such."

They were spoken--words that had been trembling on his lips all these
summer months, in which Bonnibel Vere had grown dearer to him than
his own life--the words that would seal his fate! He looked at her
imploringly, but her face was turned away, and she was trailing one
white ungloved hand idly through the blue water.

"Perhaps I am presumptuous in speaking such words to you, little one,"
he continued, gently. "I am but a poor artist, with fame and fortune
yet to win, and the world says that you will be your uncle's heiress.
Yet I have dared to love you, Bonnibel--who could see you and not love
you? Are you very angry with me, darling?"

Still no answer from the silent girl before him. She kept her sweet
face turned away from his gaze, and continued to play with the water as
though indifferent to his words. He went on patiently, his full, manly
voice freighted with deep emotion:

"I am as proud as you in my way. Bonnibel, I do not ask to claim you
now in my struggle with the world. I only ask you to remember me, and
that when fame and fortune are both conquered, I may return to lay them
at your feet."

He paused and waited, thinking that she must be very angry indeed to
avert her face so resolutely; but suddenly, with a ripple of silvery
laughter, she turned and looked at him.

Oh! the beauty of that face she turned upon him! It was fairly
transfigured with love and happiness. It was bathed in brilliant
blushes, tinted like the sunset red that was flushing the evening sky.
A quivering smile played around her delicate lips, and two vivid stars
of light burned in the blue deeps of her eyes.

"Bonnibel," he cried, rapturously, "you are not angry; you forgive
me--you will let me worship you, and you will love me a little in
return?"

"You are very presumptuous, Mr. Dane," said she, trying to frown away
the smiles that danced around her lips.

"Do not play with me, Bonnibel," he said, earnestly. "You are too
young and innocent to play the coquette. Lay your little hand in mine,
dearest, and promise that one day, though it may be years hence, you
will be my wife."

He dropped the oars, and suffered the fairy bark to drift at its own
sweet will, while he reached his hand to hers. She hesitated one moment
between girlish shyness and a mischievous love of teasing, but a swift
look at the dark, eloquent face of her handsome lover conquered her.
She laid her beautiful hand in his slender fingers, and murmured, in a
tone of passionate tenderness:

"Leslie, the greatest happiness the world holds for me is to be your
wife!"

Leslie Dane's dark eyes grew radiant with joy and pride.

"My darling, my queen," he murmured. "A thousand thanks for that
assurance! How can I thank you enough for giving me so much happiness?"

"You have made me very happy, too, Leslie," said the girl, simply.

"But what will your uncle say to us, do you think, Bonnibel?" said he,
presently. "Will he not be angry with the portionless artist who dares
to sue for this fairy hand?"

"Oh! no," she said, innocently. "He has never denied me anything in his
life. He will consent when he knows how much I love you. You must ask
him this very evening to let us be engaged while you are away winning
fame and fortune. He will not be angry."

"I hope not," said the less sanguine lover. "But the sun is setting,
darling. We must return."

In the beautiful summer evening they rowed back through the blue waves,
with the curlews calling above their heads, and the radiant sunset
shining on the water with a brightness that seemed typical of the
future which lay before their young and loving hearts.

At length they anchored their boat, and stepped upon the shore in full
view of a large and handsome white villa that stood in the middle of
beautiful and well-kept grounds. Toward this abode of wealth and pride
they directed their footsteps.

"Uncle Francis is sitting out on the piazza," said Bonnibel, as they
went up the smooth, graveled walk. "You must go right in and ask him,
Leslie, while I run away up-stairs to dress for dinner."

"Very well, dear. And--stay, darling, if I should not be here when you
come back, run down to the shore after the moon is up, and I will tell
you what answer your uncle gives my suit."

"Very well; I will do so," she answered. "But I am sure that Uncle
Francis will keep you to dinner, so I shall see you directly I come
down."

He pressed her hand and she tripped across the piazza into the hall,
and then ran up the broad stair-way to her room with a lighter heart
than ever beat in her breast again.

Leslie Dane walked down the piazza to where Bonnibel's uncle and
guardian, Francis Arnold, the millionaire, sat in his easy-chair
puffing his evening cigar, and indolently watching the blue wreaths of
smoke curling over his head.

Mr. Arnold was a spare, well-made man of sixty-five, with iron-gray
hair and beard. His well-cut features were sharp and resolute in
contour, and betokened more sternness than Bonnibel Vere ever dreamed
of in his unfailing tenderness to herself. He was elegantly dressed,
and wore a costly diamond ring on his little finger.

As the young man drew near, the stately millionaire arose and
acknowledged his respectful greeting with considerable cordiality.

"Ah! Dane, good-evening. Have a seat and join me in a cigar."

"Thank you, I do not smoke," answered the young artist, politely, "but
I am sorry to interrupt your enjoyment of that luxury."

"It does not matter," said the millionaire, tossing his own cigar away
and resuming his seat. "Sit down, Dane. Well, how do you get on with
your pictures?"

The dusky, handsome face lighted up with pleasure.

"Famously, thank you. I have sold two little pictures in New York
lately at quite a fair valuation, and the critics have praised them.
They say I have genius and should study under the best masters."

"Indeed! I congratulate you," said Mr. Arnold, cordially. "Do you think
of taking their advice?"

"I do. I shall sail for Rome very soon now, and study there a year
or two," said Leslie, his features beaming with pleasure. "I believe
I shall succeed in my ambition. I feel within myself the promptings
of genius, and I know that my persistent labor will conquer fame and
fortune."

The elder man regarded him with some surprise. He had never seen him so
enthusiastic on any subject before, even that of his beloved art.

"You seem very sanguine and determined," he observed with a smile.

"I _am_ determined," answered Leslie, gravely. "I mean to _conquer_
success. You remember the hackneyed quotation:

    "'In the proud lexicon of youth which fate reserves to a bright manhood,
      There is no such a word as Fail!'"

"I did not know you had such a towering ambition, Dane," said the
millionaire, with a smile.

"My ambition is no higher than my hopes, Mr. Arnold, for I have come
here this evening to ask you for the hand of Miss Vere when I shall be
in a position worthy of that high honor!"

"Sir!"

The word rolled out of the millionaire's mouth like a thunder-clap.

He straightened himself in his chair, seeming to grow several inches
taller, and his iron-gray hair seemed to stand erect on his head with
indignant surprise. His keen gray eyes regarded Leslie Dane with a
stony stare of surprise, bordering on contempt.

"I have the sanction of your niece, Miss Vere, to ask of you her hand
in marriage," repeated Leslie Dane, calmly.

Mr. Arnold sprang to his feet, furious with rage, pale as death under
the influence of this overmastering emotion.

"Villain!" he cried out in loud, excited tones. "Do you mean to tell
me that you have abused the confidence I reposed in your honor as a
gentleman, to win the heart of that innocent, trusting child? You, a
poor, penniless, unknown artist!"

"I grant you I am poor, Mr. Arnold," answered Leslie Dane, rising and
confronting his accuser with a mien as proud as his own. "But that I
have abused your confidence, I deny! Bonnibel loves me as I love her,
but I have taken no undue advantage to gain her love. You invited me
here, and gave me every opportunity to cultivate her acquaintance. Can
you wonder that I learned to love one so sweet and beautiful?"

"I wonder at your presumption in telling her so!" flashed the angry
guardian. "If you loved her you should have worshiped her from afar as
a star too far away to warm you with its beams. By Jove! sir, do you
know that Bonnibel Vere will be my heiress? Do you know that the best
blood of the land flows in her veins? Do you know that her father was
General Harry Vere, who fell bravely in battle, and left a record as
proud as any in the land?"

"General Vere's fame is not unknown to me, sir," answered Leslie,
calmly. "I give him due honor as a hero. But, sir, my blood is as blue
as Bonnibel's own! I belong to the noblest and best family of the
South. True, we lost all our wealth by the late war, but we belong
to the first rank yet in point of birth. I can give you perfect
satisfaction on these points, sir. And for the rest, I do not propose
to claim Bonnibel until I have realized a fortune equal to her own,
and added fresh laurels to the name that is already crowned with bays
in the far South, from whence I come. My father was an officer in the
army, too, sir, and not unknown to fame."

"We waste words," said the millionaire, shortly. "No matter what your
birth, you were presumptuous in addressing my niece, knowing that
your poverty must be an insuperable bar to your union. Perhaps it was
her wealth you were after. The idea of making love to that child!
She _is_ but a child, after all, and does not know her own mind. A
simple, trusting child, ready to fall a prey to the first good-looking
fortune-hunter that comes along."

"Were it not for your gray hairs, Mr. Arnold, I should not permit you
to apply such an insulting epithet to me!" flashed out Leslie Dane in a
white heat of passion.

"You provoked it, sir," cried the old man, wrathfully; "_you_ to try
to win my little ewe-lamb from me. She, that her dying mother, my only
sister, gave to my arms in her infancy as a precious trust. Do you
think I would give her to you, or to any man who did not stand head and
shoulders above his fellow-men in every point of excellence? Would I
waste her sweet years waiting for you to grow worthy of her? No, no,
Leslie Dane, you can never have my darling! She shall never give you
another thought. Go, sir, and never darken my doors with your unworthy
presence again!"

He pointed to the door, and the young artist had no choice but to obey.
He was trembling with passion, and his dark eyes blazed with a light
not pleasant to see.

"I obey you, sir," he said, proudly. "I go, but remember I do not give
up my claim on Bonnibel! Sooner or later she shall yet be my wife! And,
mark me, sir, you have done a bitter work to-day that you shall one day
repent with all your soul."

With the words he was gone, his tall, proud figure striding down the
graveled walk, and disappearing in the twilight shadows.



CHAPTER III.


Mr. Arnold and his family, consisting only of his wife and
step-daughter, Felise Herbert, were in their places at the table before
Bonnibel came floating in, a vision of rosy, innocent loveliness.

If she had been beautiful before in her plain blue walking-dress she
was doubly so now in her soft white robe of India muslin, with fleecy
trimmings of rich Valenciennes lace. A pale blue sash was knotted about
her slender waist, and clusters of fragrant blue violets looped back
her long golden curls. A golden chain and a cross studded with pearls
was clasped about her white neck, though she scarcely needed such
adornment. Her beauty was a crown in itself.

She came in a little shyly, and blushing very much, for she expected to
see her lover, and she glanced under her long lashes along the length
of the table as she took her place, expecting to meet his adoring gaze.

He was not there.

The young girl scarcely knew what to think. She glanced at her uncle as
if to enlighten herself.

He was not looking at her; indeed, he seemed to avoid her glance
purposely, and a moody frown was fixed upon his brow. Her aunt
vouchsafed her a cold, unmeaning stare, and Felise Herbert's large
black eyes dilated as she looked at Bonnibel as if with gratified
malice.

These two ladies, mother and daughter, deserve more than a passing
mention at our hands. We will briefly describe them. Mrs. Arnold was a
fine-looking brunette of about forty-five, and would have been rather
handsome but for a settled expression of peevishness and discontent
that rested upon her features. She was elaborately dressed in a soft
summer silk of silver-gray trimmed in black lace, and wore very rich
cameo jewelry.

Miss Herbert was a younger and handsomer copy of her mother. She was
tall and well-formed, with quite regular features, large black eyes,
and silky braids of black hair. She was about twenty-five years old,
and was becomingly dressed in a thin black grenadine, richly trimmed
with satin of the color of old gold. Her ornaments were necklace,
earrings, and bracelets of gold. Mr. Arnold could not complain of the
beauty of his household, though his tastes in that particular were
extremely refined.

"Bonnibel," he said, when the dinner which had been discussed in most
unusual silence was over, "come with me into the library. I have
something to say to you."

Bonnibel linked her arm fondly in his and they passed out together.

Miss Herbert looked at her mother, and a glance of great significance
passed between them, the expression of discontent on the elder lady's
features now deepening to positive anger and hatred.

"Yes," she said, as if answering her daughter's look; "go and hear what
he has to say to the little witch!"

Miss Herbert arose and passed out of the room with soft, subdued
footfalls.

Mrs. Arnold paced the floor restlessly, clenching her white hands
angrily.

"My clever, beautiful Felise," she murmured. "How my husband slights,
and ignores her to lavish his whole affection upon that little hateful,
yellow-haired child! After all my scheming to get him to love Felise,
and at least divide his fortune between them, he boldly declared this
evening to that young artist-fool that he would make Bonnibel his
heiress. And Felise--she will have nothing but what I can give her
out of my portion! which he will make as small as possible in order
to enrich his idol. It is too bad--too bad! Something must be done to
induce him to change his mind. I wish she would elope with Leslie Dane.
That would alienate my husband from her forever."

The entrance of the servants to clear the table interrupted her.
She left the room, with its glitter of lights and glass, silver and
flowers, and hurried away to her own luxurious apartments to nurse her
wrath and jealousy in solitude.

She hated Bonnibel Vere, and she hated her husband. He had married her
twenty years ago, when she had palmed herself off upon him as a widow
of high family and small means, while in reality she was a vulgar and
penniless adventuress, having but one pure affection in her heart, and
that her blind, idolatrous love for her spoiled and wayward little
daughter.

Francis Arnold had discovered the cheat practiced on him long ago, and
though too proud to proclaim the secret to the world, the love he had
felt for his handsome wife had changed into quiet contempt that stung
her more than the loudest upbraidings.

Her daughter, who was treacherous as a cat and vindictive as a snake,
he simply hated, and no blandishments or persuasions could induce him
to settle anything upon her, though the one object of the mother's
heart was to secure his whole fortune for herself and Felise.

We will pause in our contemplation of the ambitious woman's rage and
follow Bonnibel and her uncle to the large, well-lighted, and elegant
library.

"Uncle," said the girl, going up to him as he sank into his easy-chair,
and laying her hand caressingly on his cheek, "are you not well? You
seem so strange, you do not smile on your little girl as usual."

He was silent a moment as if struggling for words in which to express
his grievance, then he broke out impetuously:

"I am sick, little one, sick at heart. I have received a dreadful blow
this evening--one that fairly stunned me!"

"Dear uncle," said she, with innocent unconsciousness, "who was it that
dared to wound you so?"

"Bonnibel, it was Leslie Dane, the poor young artist whom I have
patronized this summer because I pitied him! Darling, he had the
audacious impertinence to ask me for this little hand!" he lifted it
from his shoulder, where it rested fondly, and pressed it to his lips.

But Bonnibel caught it away and started back from his side, her cheeks
growing white and her blue eyes dilating.

"What did you say to him?" she inquired, breathlessly.

"I told him he was a worthless fortune-hunter, and I drove him forth
with scorn and contempt," said the millionaire hotly.

"You did--you did!" she cried, horror and incredulity struggling in her
voice and face. "You insulted him thus? Why, Uncle Francis, I _love_
him!"

In those concluding words there was at once a protest and a defiance.
It was as if she had felt and said that _her_ love should have been a
sufficient shield and protection for him it clung around so fondly.

"Pooh! nonsense!" said Arnold, trying a light tone of railery; "you are
but a child, Bonnibel, you do not know what love means. Do you think I
would suffer you to throw yourself away on that worthless fellow?"

"He is not worthless," she cried out warmly. "He is noble, good and
true, and I love him dearly. But, Uncle Francis," she said, suddenly
changing her indignant tone to one of gentle entreaty, "surely you are
only jesting and teasing your little girl, and I beg you not to use
such dreadful language again, for you insult the man whom I love with
my whole heart, and whom I shall one day marry."

"Never! never!" he shouted madly. "Girl, you have been spoiled and
indulged until you are silly enough to cry for the moon and expect me
to pluck it from heaven for you! But I will save you from your folly
this time. I will _never_ permit you to marry Leslie Dane!"

It was the first time he had ever denied her anything in the course of
her happy, care-free life. And now his cruel and resolute refusal of
this new toy she wanted so much, absolutely stunned her and deprived
her of speech.

She sank into a chair helplessly, and looked at him with parted,
tremulous lips, and with wild, astonished blue eyes. He saw how shocked
and incredulous she was, and altering his tone, began to explain and
argue with her:

"My darling, Leslie Dane is no match for my little girl. He is poor and
has nothing to recommend him but a handsome face, and a little talent
for daubing with paints and pencils, while you are a beauty and an
heiress, and can boast a proud descent. I have made my will, and it is
there in my desk this moment. In it I have left you everything except
one-third of my property, which my widow will legally inherit. Surely
my generosity merits the one little return I ask of you. Simply that
you will give up Leslie Dane."

She looked up at him as he offered his costly bribe, and shook her head
gravely.

"You have been very kind to me always, uncle, I never knew you could be
cruel until now. I thank you for your kind intention, but I will not
give up Leslie for such a sordid bribe. Keep your money, and I will
keep my love!"

"I am not giving you the choice, girl," he answered, angrily. "I intend
you to have the money whether you want it or not, and I have already
said that you shall _never_ marry Leslie Dane."

"And I say that I _will_ marry him!" she cried, springing up in a rage
as passionate and unreasoning as his own, her blue eyes blazing with
defiance. "You shall not prevent me! I love him better than any one
else on earth, and I will marry him if I repent it every hour of my
after life."

So saying she rushed from the room, and pausing only to catch up a dark
shawl and wrap it about her, she sped down the graveled walk on her way
to seek her lover.

She paused outside the gate, and crouching down, peered anxiously back
to see if she was followed. The moon was up, shining brilliantly over
everything. She saw her uncle come out on the piazza and drop into his
favorite seat. Then the fragrance of a cigar floated out on the warm
August air. Bonnibel hurried on down to the shore.

Leslie Dane was waiting for her, pacing the sands impatiently in the
soft moonlight.



CHAPTER IV.


Bonnibel ran forward and threw herself on her lover's breast in a
passion of tears.

"You know all then, my darling?" holding her fast against his
wildly-throbbing heart.

She could not speak for the sobs that came heaving from her aching
little heart.

Bonnibel had never wept so wildly in all her life. It seemed to her
that she would die of her grief as she lay panting and weeping in
Leslie's tender arms.

"Do not weep so, my little love," he whispered. "We were too sanguine
of success. But try to bear it bravely, my Bonnibel. We both are young.
We can bear to wait a few years until my success is assured, and then I
will claim you for my own in spite of all the world!"

Bonnibel did not answer. She continued to sob heart-brokenly, and
Leslie could feel her little heart beating wildly against his breast as
if it would burst with the strain of her grief.

So absorbed was he in trying to comfort the agitated girl that he did
not hear the sound of an approaching footstep.

The next moment Wild Madge, the sibyl, stood before them, and the echo
of her weird and mocking laugh blent strangely with the hollow beat of
the Atlantic waves.

"Aha," she cried discordantly. "You weep, my bonny maid! Ah! said I not
that the clouds of sorrow hung low over that golden head?"

Bonnibel started and clung closer to her lover, while a tremor shook
her frame.

Leslie turned angrily and rebuked the old woman.

"Begone!" he said sternly. "How dare you come prowling about this lady
with your croakings of evil? Never dare to address her again."

Wild Madge retreated a few steps and stood looking at him malevolently
in the moonlight. Again her laugh rang out mockingly.

"Never fear, fond lover, Wild Madge would not harm a hair of that bonny
head you shelter on your breast. But destiny is stronger than you or
I. Her doom is written. Take the little maid in your arms and spring
out into the sea there, and save her from the heart-aches that are
beginning now!"

"Begone, I say!" reiterated the young artist threateningly.

"I obey you," said the sibyl, retreating, with her mocking, discordant
laugh still ringing in their ears.

"Bonnibel," he whispered, "look up, my sweet one. The crazy old
creature is gone. You need not fear her predictions--they mean nothing!
Try and calm yourself and listen to me. I have much to say to you
to-night for it is the last time we shall meet until I come to claim
my bride. In a few hours I must leave here. To-morrow I shall be on a
steamer bound for Europe."

"So soon?" she gasped brokenly, stifling her anguished sobs.

"The sooner the better, darling. I must not dally here when I have so
much work to do. Remember I have fame and fortune to conquer before we
meet again!"

"It will be so long," she moaned, slipping out of his arms and sinking
down on the pebbly beach with her face hidden in her hands.

Leslie picked up the shawl which had slipped from her shoulders and
wrapped it carefully about her, for the sea-air was chilly and damp.

"It may seem long to us now, dear," he said, sitting down beside her,
"but in reality it will pass very quickly. I shall work very hard
with such a prize in view, and I hope the time of our separation will
not be long. I shall go at once to Rome and place myself under the
best masters. I have genius, for I feel it within me, and the critics
already admit it. Never fear, darling, but that my success will be
speedy and sure."

"But away off to Rome," said the girl. "Oh! Leslie, that seems as if
you were going out of the world. Why need you go to Italy? Cannot you
study here in this country?"

"Not so well, my little love, as in Italy, where I can have better
masters, and better facilities for studying the paintings of the
world's greatest artists in the beautiful old churches and cathedrals.
I must have the best instruction, for I want to make the name you will
bear an honored one."

She lifted her beautiful, tear-wet face in the moonlight, and said,
gently and simply:

"We need not wait for fame and fortune, Leslie. Take me with you now."

For a minute Leslie Dane could not speak. She waited, _patiently_ for
her, laying her hands in his, and looking up into his face with eyes
beautiful enough to lead a man's heart astray and bewilder his reason.

"My child," he said, presently, "I wish that I might do so, but you
know not what you ask. You have been reared in the lap of luxury and
pride. You could not live through the deprivation and poverty I must
endure before I conquer success."

"I could bear anything better than the separation from you, Leslie,"
said the poor child, who had but the faintest idea what those two
words, "poverty and privation," meant.

"You think so, dear," said the artist, "because you do not know the
meaning of poverty; but adversity would wither and destroy you as
quickly as some hot-house blossom would die when transplanted to
regions of ice and snow. No, darling, I am too proud to take you now
in my obscurity and poverty. Let us wait until the name I can give you
shall be an honor to wear."

"It must be so if you wish it, Leslie," she answered, sadly; "but, oh,
how can I bear the long separation when I love you so devotedly?"

"It will not be for long, dearest--two or three years at best. The time
will pass quickly to you in your happy home, under the devoted care
of your Uncle Francis--only you must not permit him to alienate your
affections from me, for that I am sure is his present intention."

She was silent, resting her head against his supporting arm, and
passing her small hand wearily over her brow as if to dispel some
gathering mist from her sight. The solemn, mystical sound of the
foam-capped waves breaking silently on the shore seemed strangely
pathetic to her ears. They had never sounded so sad before.

"Darling, of what are you thinking?" he asked, gently.

She started and shivered, lifting her white face up to his with a look
that nearly broke his heart, it was so pitifully pathetic. He had never
seen anything but happiness on that beautiful face. Why had he won her
love only to plant the thorns of sorrow in that fond and trusting heart?

"Leslie, dear," she said, in a strangely altered voice, "do you believe
in presentiments?"

He started at the words.

"Bonnibel," he answered, "I hardly know whether I do or not. It would
be very superstitious to believe in such things, would it not? And
yet may not a merciful Providence sometimes vouchsafe us warnings of
things, as the Scotch say, 'beyond our ken'? My darling, why did you
ask me that strange question?"

He took her little trembling hand in his and looked searchingly into
her face.

"Leslie," she said, "I have such a strange feeling. Perhaps you will
laugh at it. I should have laughed at it myself two hours ago."

"Tell me, dear," he pleaded; "I will not even smile."

She looked up with something like awe shining in her large eyes.

"Leslie, I can hardly find words to put this strong presentiment in;
but I feel that if we part now--like this--that before you win the
honors you covet, some terrible bar of fate will come between us and
sunder us so widely that we shall never meet again."

The low, impressive words fell heavily on his heart, chilling it like
ice. How strangely they sounded from his little Bonnibel, who but
an hour ago was as gay as a butterfly in the sunshine. Now the very
elements of tragedy were in her voice and face. A jealous pang struck
him to the heart.

"Bonnibel," he said, quietly, "do you mean that your uncle would marry
you to someone else before I came back to claim you?"

"I do not know," she said; "I hardly think my feeling was as clearly
defined as that. It was a dim, intangible something I could not fathom,
and took no peculiar shape. But he might try to do that, for, oh,
Leslie! Uncle Francis is terribly angry with us both."

"I am quite aware of that, my dearest," he answered, bitterly. "But,
Bonnibel, this presentiment of yours troubles me. Perhaps I am foolish,
but I have always been a half-way believer in these things."

"Leslie, I believe it firmly," she said, choking back a sob that rose
in her throat; "Uncle Francis will dig some impassable gulf between us.
When we part to-night, it will be forever."

Hiding her face on his shoulder she sobbed aloud. Poor little bonny
bird! she had been soaring in the blue ether, her fair plumage bathed
in sunshine all her life. Now her bright wings were clipped, and she
walked in the shadow.

"My love has only brought you sorrow," he said, regretfully.

"No, no; you must not think so," she answered, earnestly. "It seems to
me, Leslie, that I have never fully lived until this summer, when I met
and loved you. Life has seemed to have a fuller, deeper meaning; the
flowers have been sweeter, the sunshine fairer, the sound of the sea
has seemed to have a voice that spake to me of happiness. If you had
gone away from me with your love untold I should have missed something
from my life forever. You do not guess what a wealth of love is in my
heart, Leslie. It is not your love that brings me sorrow; it is the
dreadful, dreadful parting with you!"

He pressed her hand in silence. A terrible temptation had come to him.
He was struggling mutely against it, trying to fight it down in all
honor. But love and jealousy fought madly against white-handed honor.

"If you leave her now, in her beauty and youth," whispered jealousy,
"some other man will see that she is fair. She will forget you and wed
another."

"Make her your own _now_," whispered love.

He was young and ardent; the warm blood of the South, whose flame
burns so hotly, fired his veins. He looked at her sitting there so
angelically fair in the beautiful moonlight, and knew that he should
never love another as he loved this beautiful, innocent child. If she
were lost to his future life what profit could he have in wealth and
fame? Love and jealousy conquered.

He drew her to his side with a passionate clasp, longing to hold her
there forever.

"Bonnibel," he whispered, "do not be frightened at what I am going to
say. I am afraid that they will marry you to some other while I am gone
away. Your uncle may persuade you against your will, may even bring
force to bear with you. But there is one way in which we can bridge
any gulf they may dig between us, darling. Will you marry me secretly
to-night? I can leave you more willingly, then, knowing that no power
can keep us apart when I come to claim you."

"Marry you to-night?" gasped the child. "How can I do that, Leslie?"

"Nothing easier, darling. Only a mile and a half from here is the
little fishing village of Brandon. We can take your little skiff and
go down, be married by the Methodist minister there, and return in a
few hours, and then I can leave you without being haunted by a terrible
foreboding of losing you forever. They will think you are asleep in
your room at home, and no one will miss you or be the wiser for the
precious little secret that we will keep sacredly until I come to claim
my little wife. Bonnibel, will you make this great sacrifice for love?
It will make our future happiness secure."

"Yes," she whispered, without a moment's thought.



CHAPTER V.


The fairy little bark, the _Bonnibel_, swept blithely out into the
moonlighted waves.

Bonnibel tied her lace handkerchief over her head, and wrapped the
shawl about her shoulders.

Somehow her heart began to grow lighter. This moonlight flitting seemed
so sweet and romantic.

Her dark-eyed lover sitting opposite lightly swaying the oars looked
handsome as a demi-god to her partial eyes. She trusted him implicitly.

"The king can do no wrong," was her motto.

"You shall never regret this step, never, my darling," Leslie Dane kept
saying to her over and over, as if to soothe his conscience, which
perhaps reproached him.

And Bonnibel answered with a smile every time, "I never expect to
regret it, Leslie, dear."

His rapid strokes of the oar soon brought them to their destination.
Brandon was a poor little fishing village consisting only of the
rude huts of the fishermen, a little Methodist chapel, and a little
parsonage down by the shore rather neater than the rest of the shanties.

Here lived the aged minister and his kind old wife. Thither the young
artist directed his steps with Bonnibel clinging to his arm.

Fortunately they met no one on the way, and almost before they knew it
they stood in the shabby "best room," which served the good man for
study, library and parlor.

There the minister sat with his books, and the good wife with her
knitting.

Leslie Dane drew the old man aside and they held a brief whispered
colloquy. Apparently the young man made everything satisfactory, for in
a minute he came back and led Bonnibel forward to breathe those solemn
vows which are so quickly cemented but which death alone can sunder.

Bonnibel was trembling very much, though the hitherto thoughtless child
did not in the least realize the magnitude of the step she was taking.

She only thought to herself how sweet it would be to be bound by that
sacred tie to Leslie Dane, and she quivered from head to foot with
pleasure, and with a certain indefinable nervousness she did not begin
to understand, while the two old people stared at her in surprise at
her radiant beauty and costly dress.

The solemn words were soon spoken, Leslie making the responses firmly,
and Bonnibel in a hushed little voice that was scarcely audible. The
young man slipped a ring over her finger that he had always worn on
his own, the minister blessed them, the good wife kissed the girl with
tears in her eyes, for women always weep at a wedding. Then Leslie
slipped a generous fee into the old man's hand, and led his blushing
bride away.

"God bless you, my darling, and may you always look back to this hour
as the happiest one of your life," he whispered, as he put her into
the little skiff and kissed her beautiful lips with an outburst of
passionate tenderness.

"I wish you the same happiness, Leslie," whispered the happy little
bride.

"In a little while now we shall be parted," said he; "oh, my Bonnibel,
how much easier the parting will be when I know that I am leaving my
wife behind me--my wife whom no one can keep from me when I come for
her."

"It was a happy thought of yours to bind me thus," answered the young
bride, softly. "Now that grim presentiment will haunt me no more, and
Uncle Francis cannot hurt me with his threats or his coldness while I
have this precious secret in my heart."

"Bonnibel," he said, anxiously, "in some moments of defiance you may
feel tempted to taunt him by the betrayal of our marriage; but I
implore you do not yield to the temptation. More serious consequences
may follow than you dream of. Let our secret be a dead secret until I
give you leave to proclaim it."

"I will never reveal it, Leslie, I give you my solemn word of honor,"
replied Bonnibel, earnestly.

"Thanks dearest. I only asked the promise because I knew it was for the
best. Darling, I shall think of you always while I am absent, and I
will write to you very often. Will you write to me sometimes, and let
me know that you are well and happy?"

"I will write to you often and let you know that I am well; but I can
never be happy while I am separated from you, Leslie," she said, sadly.

"Bonnibel, how beautiful you look in that white dress," he said,
changing the conversation abruptly, seeing that it pained her. "You
were the finest bride I ever saw."

"It is a pretty dress," she said, looking down at the soft mass of
muslin and lace; "but I little thought when I put it on for dinner this
evening that it would be my bridal dress. I shall always love this
dress, Leslie. I will keep it always in memory of to-night."

Both were silent after a little while, till Leslie said, abruptly:

"Bonnibel, I wish I knew of what you are thinking so intently."

"I was hardly thinking at all," she said, quickly. "Some verses were
running through my mind that I read this evening in Jean Ingelow's
pretty poems. I hardly understood them then, but they seem to suit my
feelings now."

"Let me hear them," said Leslie.

"I cannot recall them, except the last verse. The poem was called
'Divided,' and the last verse, which is all that I clearly recollect,
ran thus:

    "'And yet I know, past all doubting truly--
        A knowledge greater than grief can dim--
      I know as he loved he will love me duly,
        Yea, better, e'en better than I love him.
      And as I walk by the vast, calm river,
        The awful river so dread to see.
      I say, thy breadth and thy depth forever
        Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me.'"

"Beautiful," said Leslie, as the full voice, tremulous with newly
awakened feeling died away. "You must always recall those lines when
you think of me, my little one."

The keel grated on the shore. Leslie looked at his watch in the
moonlight.

"It is later than I thought," he said, hurriedly, as he helped Bonnibel
out upon the shore. "I have but fifteen minutes to reach the station.
Darling, I must go to-night, though it nearly kills me to leave you."

She turned quivering and weeping, to throw herself upon his breast.

"Darling, you are not afraid to go to the house alone?" he whispered.
"My time is so short!"

"No, no," she said. "But, Leslie, how _can_ I let you go?"

"'Tis but a little while," he answered, soothingly. "Be brave, my
precious darling!"

He drew her to his heart with a long, despairing embrace, and kissed
her passionately.

"My little love, my own sweet _wife_, good-bye!" he faltered, and was
gone.

Bonnibel threw out her yearning arms as if she would draw him back,
then turned and staggered homeward.

"I _will_ be brave," she murmured. "I will try to bear it, but, oh,
this pain at my heart."

She opened the gate and went softly up the walk. It was almost
midnight, and she began to wonder if the doors would be locked.

"If they are I shall have to get in through the window," she said to
herself.

But as she stepped on the piazza she saw the front door open and her
uncle sitting motionless in his easy chair.

"Poor dear," she thought, with a thrill of regretful tenderness, and
forgetting herself entirely. "He has fallen asleep in his chair and
they have all forgotten him. I will wake him with a kiss."

He lay with his head thrown back, apparently fast asleep. Gliding
softly along, she threw her arm about his neck and, bending over,
pressed her sweet lips to his brow.

She started back with a shiver and looked at him. The brow she had
kissed was cold as ice. Her hand fell down upon his breast and came in
contact with something wet and cold. She lifted her hand and saw upon
it in the moonlight a dark stain.

"Uncle!" she screamed, "oh, God, uncle, wake up!"

That wild scream of agony roused the house. The servants came rushing
out, but before they reached her Bonnibel had fallen fainting at her
uncle's feet. The beautiful white dress she had promised to keep in
memory of that night was all dabbled and stained in a pool of his
life-blood that had dripped down upon the floor.



CHAPTER VI.


Francis Arnold was dead. The soul of the proud millionaire, the
disappointed husband, the loving uncle, had been hurried prematurely
before the bar of Eternal Justice. In the stillness of the summer night
while he rested in fancied security beneath his own roof-tree, the
angel of sleep pressing down his weary eye-lids, the deadly destroyer
had crept to his side, and red-handed murder had struck the cowardly
blow that spilled his life blood.

They came hurrying out--the servants first, the wife next, the
step-daughter last--all roused by that piercing shriek of agony--and
found him sitting there dead, with Bonnibel lying lifeless at his feet,
her white robes dabbled and stained in the blood upon the floor.

They brought lights and looked at him. Yes, he was cold and dead. There
was a great scarlet stain on his white vest where the deadly weapon had
entered his heart. The blood had dripped down in a great pool upon the
floor and was fast stiffening on his garments.

Mrs. Arnold shrieked aloud and went into horrible hysterics, laughing
wildly and maniacally, and tearing her hair from its fastenings; but
Felise Herbert stood still as a statue of horror, looking at the dismal
scene. Her pale face was paler than ever, and her large, black eyes
looked wildly about her. She made no effort to arrest her mother's
frenzied cries, but stood still as if frozen into ice, while the maids
lifted up the still form of poor Bonnibel and carried her through the
drawing-room window, laying her down gently, and applying restoratives.

Life came swiftly back to her under their influence. She lifted her
head, and opened her eyes upon the faces around her just as a shrill
and piercing whistle announced the departure of the train which was
bearing her young husband away from her for years--perhaps forever.

Bonnibel sprang up and went out on the piazza again. As she stepped to
the side of that lifeless form, Felise Herbert, just waking from her
apparent trance of horror, waved her hands in the air, and cried out
solemnly and sepulchrally:

"Oh, Heaven! It is Leslie Dane who has done this dreadful deed. That
was what he meant by his dark threats this evening!"

"Leslie Dane has killed him!" echoed her mother, wildly.

"It is false, woman! How dare you accuse him of such a deed?" Bonnibel
cried out fiercely, wild with grief and horror; then suddenly she
looked at the half-dazed men-servants standing around their master
helplessly.

"Idiots!" she cried, "why do you stand here idle? Why does not some one
bring a doctor? Perhaps he is not dead yet--he may be revived."

They brought a physician at her bidding, but when he came his services
were needed for her, not for the pale corpse down stairs that would
nevermore want the physician's potent art. They had taken her by force
to her room, where she was wildly walking the floor, wringing her hands
and raving over her loss.

"You are dead, Uncle Francis," she cried, passionately; "you will never
speak to me again. And I had left you in anger. We never quarreled
before--never! And without a good-bye kiss, without a forgiving word,
you are gone from me into the darkness of death! They have killed you,
my dear one!--who could have been so cruel?--and you will never know
how I loved you, and that I forgave you for your cruelty so soon, or
that I wished to be reconciled. Oh, God! Oh, God!"

She told her story frankly to the good old doctor when he came and
questioned her. She and her uncle had quarreled because he had denied
her a darling wish. She had rushed out of the house in a fit of anger,
and moped about the seashore until late into the night. Then she had
returned, and seeing him sitting there on the piazza she had felt her
anger melting into tenderness, and stolen up to give him the kiss of
reconciliation, but found him cold and dead.

She told the same story when the inquest was held next day, blushing
crimson when they asked her what she and her uncle had quarreled over.

"It was a purely personal matter," she answered, hesitatingly. "Is it
necessary to reveal it?"

They told her it was necessary.

"He refused to sanction my engagement to my lover, and drove him away
from the house with cruel, insulting words," she answered briefly
through her tears and blushes.

"And you were very angry with your uncle?"

"Yes; for a little while," she answered frankly; "but when I came back
to the house I was ready to forgive him and be friends with him again.
He had never been unkind to me before, but indulged me in every wish,
and petted me as my own father might have done had he lived. I was
almost wild at first with surprise and anger at the first denial I had
ever received from him; but I soon overcame my indignant feelings, and
when I came back to the house I loved him as fondly as ever."

She left the room immediately after giving in her evidence, overcome
with grief and emotion, and going to her room, threw herself down upon
the bed, from which she did not rise again for many weeks. Grief and
excitement precipitated her into a brain fever, and for many days life
and death fought persistently over their unhappy victim.

Had she known what would take place after she left the room she would
have remained until the inquest was over. Felise Herbert and her mother
boldly declared their belief that Leslie Dane was the murderer of Mr.
Arnold. From the drawing-room windows which opened out on the piazza
they had overheard the conversation between the two men relative to
Bonnibel, and they detailed every word, maliciously misrepresenting
Leslie Dane's indignant words so as to place the worst construction
upon them. One or two of the servants had heard also, and from all the
testimony elicited the jury readily found a verdict of willful homicide
against Leslie Dane, and a warrant was issued for the young man's
arrest.

But poor little Bonnibel, tossing up-stairs in her fevered delirium,
knew nothing of all this. If she had known she might easily have
cleared her lover from that foul charge by proving that he had been
with her during those fatal hours in which Mr. Arnold had met his death.

It remained for her to prove his innocence at a darker hour than this,
and at the sacrifice of much that she held dear.

Mr. Arnold's body was carried to his winter residence in New York, and
buried from thence with all the pomp and splendor due to his wealth
and station. Felise and her mother, of course, accompanied the remains.

The housekeeper at the seaside home was left in charge of the hapless
Bonnibel, who lay sick unto death in her luxurious chamber, tended
carefully by hirelings and strangers, but with never one kiss of love
to fall on her fevered brow in sympathy and tenderness.

Love had gone out of her life. With the young husband adrift now on the
wide sea, and the kindly uncle lying in his gory grave, love had gone
away from her.

She had no kindred now from whom to claim tenderness or care, so only
hirelings were left to watch the spark of life flickering so feebly
day by day, that it seemed as if it must surely go out in darkness.
They were all who heard the wild, passionate appeals for Leslie and
Uncle Francis that were always on the sufferer's lips as she babbled
incoherently in her wild delirium.

Mrs. Arnold and Felise remained in New York for several weeks,
attending to business affairs and superintending the making up of very
fashionable and cumbrous mourning.

Mrs. Arnold did not provide any of this raiment for Bonnibel. She
sincerely hoped that the girl would die of her fever and preclude the
necessity of so doing.

But youth is very tenacious of life. Bonnibel, in her illness and
desolation, would willingly have died to please her aunt, but destiny
had decreed otherwise.

There came a cool, still night in September when the nurses hung
carefully around the bed waiting for the crisis that the doctor had
said would come at midnight. It came, and the reaper, Death, with his
sickle keen, passed by on the other side.

In the meanwhile outraged justice was on the _qui vive_ for the escaped
homicide, Leslie Dane. It was rumored that he had sought refuge in
a foreign land, but nothing definite could be learned regarding his
mysterious whereabouts.



CHAPTER VII.


October winds were blowing coolly over the sea before Bonnibel Vere
arose from her sick-bed, the pale and wasted shadow of her former rosy
and bewildering self.

She had convalesced but slowly--too slowly, the physician said, for one
of her former perfect health and fine constitution. But the weight of
grief hung heavily upon her, paralyzing her energies so completely that
the work of recuperation went on but slowly.

Two months had elapsed since that dreadful night in which so much had
taken place--her secret marriage and her uncle's murder.

She should have had a letter from her young husband ere this, but it
was in vain that she asked for the mail daily. No letter and no message
came from the wanderer, and to the pangs of grief were added the
horrors of suspense and anxiety.

A look of weary, wistful waiting crept into the bonnie blue eyes that
had of old been as cloudless and serene as the blue skies of summer.
The rose forgot to come back to her cheek, the smile to her lips. The
shadow of a sad heart was reflected on her beauty.

    "Upon her face there was the tint of grace,
     The settled shadow of an inward strife,
     And an unquiet drooping of the eye,
     As if its lid were charged with unshed tears."

The first day she sat up Mrs. Arnold came in to see her. She had only
returned from the city a few days before and was making preparations to
go back for the winter season. She sent the nurse away, saying that she
would sit with Miss Vere a little while herself.

It was a lovely day, warm and sunny for the season, and Bonnibel sat in
her easy-chair near the window where she could look out upon the wide
expanse of the ocean with its restless blue waves rolling in upon the
shore with a solemn murmur. She loved the sea, and was always sorry
when the family left their beautiful home, Sea View, for their winter
residence in the city.

"You have grown very thin, Bonnibel," said her aunt, giving her a very
scrutinizing glance, as she reclined in her chair, wrapped in a warm,
white cashmere dressing gown, to which her maid had added a few bows of
black velvet in token of her bereavement. "It is a pity the doctor had
to shave your hair. You look a fright."

Bonnibel put her hand up to her brow and touched the soft, babyish
rings of gold that began to cluster thickly about her blue-veined
temples.

"It is growing out again very fast," she said; "and it does not matter
any way. There is no one to care for my looks now," she added, thinking
of the uncle and the lover who had doted so fondly on her perfect
loveliness.

"It matters more than you think, Bonnibel," said Mrs. Arnold, sharply,
the lines of vexation deepening in her face. "It behooves you to be as
beautiful as you can now, for your face is your fortune."

"I do not understand you, aunt," said the young girl, gravely.

"It is time you should, then," was the vexed rejoinder, "I suppose you
think now, Bonnibel, that your poor uncle has left you a fortune?"

Bonnibel looked at her in surprise, and the widow's eyes shifted
uneasily beneath her gaze.

"Of course I believe that Uncle Francis has provided for my future,"
said the girl, quietly.

"You are mistaken, then," snapped the widow; "Mr. Arnold died without a
will and failed to provide for either you or Felise. Of course, in that
case, I inherit everything; and, as I remarked just now, your face is
your fortune."

"My uncle died without a will!" repeated Bonnibel in surprise.

"Yes," Mrs. Arnold answered, coolly.

"Oh, but, aunt, you must be mistaken," said Bonnibel, quickly, while a
slight flush of excitement tinted her pale cheeks. "Uncle Francis did
leave a will. I am sure of it."

"Then where is it?" inquired Mrs. Arnold.

"In his desk in the library," said the girl confidently. "He told
me but a few hours before his death that he had made his will, and
provided liberally for me, and he said it was at that minute lying in
his desk."

"Are you sure you have quite recovered from the delirium of your
fever?" inquired the widow, scornfully. "This must be one of the
vagaries of illness."

"I am as sane as you are, madam," said Bonnibel, indignantly.

"Perhaps," sneered Mrs. Arnold, rustling uneasily in the folds of
her heavy black crape. "However that may be, no will has been found,
either in the desk or in the hands of his lawyer, where it should most
probably be. The lawyer admits drawing one up for him years ago, but
thinks he must have destroyed it later, as no trace of it can be found."

"I have nothing to live upon, then," said Bonnibel, vaguely.

She did not comprehend the extent of the calamity that had fallen
upon her. Her sorrow was too fresh for her mind to dwell upon the
possibilities of the future that lay darkly before her.

"You have absolutely nothing," repeated Mrs. Arnold, grimly. "Your
father left you nothing but _fame_; your uncle left you nothing but
_love_. You will find it difficult to live upon either."

Bonnibel stared at her blankly.

"You are utterly penniless," Mrs. Arnold repeated, coarsely.

"Then what am I to do?" asked the girl, gravely, twisting her little
white hands uneasily together.

"What do you suppose?" the lady inquired, with a significant glance.

A scarlet banner fluttered into the white cheeks of the lovely invalid.
The tone and glance of the coarse woman wounded her pride deeply.

"You will want me to go away from here, I suppose," she answered,
quietly.

Mrs. Arnold straightened herself in her chair, and to Bonnibel's
surprise assumed an air of wounded feeling.

"There, now, Bonnibel," said she, in a tone of reproach, "that is just
like you. I never expected that you, spoiled child as you are, would
ever do me justice; but do you think I could be so unfeeling as to cast
you, a poor orphan child, out upon the cold charity of the world?"

Bonnibel's guileless little heart was deceived by this dramatic
exhibition of fine feeling. She began to think she had done her uncle's
wife injustice.

"Forgive me, aunt," she answered, gently. "I did not know what your
feelings would be upon the subject. I know my uncle intended to provide
for me."

"But since he signally failed to do so I will see that you do not
suffer," said the widow, loftily; "of course, I am not legally
compelled to do so, but I will keep you with me and care for you the
same as I do for my own daughter, until you marry, which, I trust,
will not be long after you lay aside your mourning. A girl as pretty
as you, even without fortune, ought to make an early and advantageous
settlement in life."

The whiteness of the girl's fair, childish face was again suffused with
deep crimson.

"I shall never marry," she answered, sadly, thinking of the
lover-husband who had left her months ago, and from whose silence she
felt that he must be dead; "never, never!"

"Pshaw!" said Mrs. Arnold, impatiently; "all the girls talk that way,
but they marry all the same. I should be sorry to have to take care of
you all your life. I expect you and Felise to marry when a suitable
_parti_ presents himself. My daughter already has an admirer in New
York whom she would do well to accept. He is very old, but then he is a
millionaire."

She arose, stately, handsome and dignified.

"Felise and I return to New York Saturday," she said. "Will you be
strong enough to accompany us?"

"I am afraid not," said Bonnibel, faintly.

"Very well. Your maid and the housekeeper will take care of you in our
absence. I will send you a traveling suit of mourning, and when you
feel strong enough you can come to us."

"Yes, madam," Bonnibel answered, and the wealthy widow left the room.

So in a few weeks after, while nature was putting off her gay livery
and donning winter hues, Bonnibel laid aside the bright garments she
had been wont to wear, as she had already laid aside the joy and
gladness of her brief spring of youth, and donning the black robes of
bereavement and bitterness,

    "Took up the cross of her life again,
     Saying only it might have been."

The day before she left Sea View she went down to the shore to have a
parting row in her pretty little namesake, the _Bonnibel_.

She had delayed her return to the city as long as possible, but now she
was growing stronger she felt that she had no further excuse to dally
in the home she loved so well, and which was so inseparably connected
with the two beloved ones so sadly lost--the uncle who had gone away
from her through the gates of death, and the young husband who seemed
separated from her just as fatally by time and distance.

As she walked slowly down to the shore in the beautiful autumnal
sunshine it seemed to her they both were dead. No message came to her
from that far Italy, which was the beloved Mecca of Leslie's hopes and
aspirations. He had never reached there, she told herself. Perhaps
shipwreck and disaster had befallen him on the way.

No thought of his forgetfulness or falsity crossed the mind of the
loyal little bride. It seemed to her that death was the only thing that
could have thrown that strange gulf of silence between their hearts.

She sprang into the little skiff--one of her uncle's loving gifts to
his niece--and suffered it to drift out into the blue waves. A fresh
breeze was blowing and the water was rather rough. The breeze blew the
soft, short rings of gold merrily about her white temples where the
blue veins were seen wandering beneath the transparent skin.

The last time she had been out rowing her hair had flouted like a
banner of gold on the breeze, and her cheek had glowed crimson as the
sunny side of a peach.

Now the shorn locks and the marble pallor of her cheeks told a
different story. Love and beauty had both left her, she thought,
mournfully. Yet nature was as lovely as ever, the blue sky was mirrored
as radiantly in the blue sea, the sunshine still shone brightly, the
breeze still whispered as tenderly to its sweethearts, the flowers. She
alone was sad.

She stayed out a long while. It was so sunny and warm it seemed like a
summer instead of an autumn day. The sea-gulls sported joyously above
the surface of the water, now and then a silvery fish leaped up in the
sunshine, its scales shining in beautiful rainbow hues, and shedding
the crystal drops of spray from its body like a shower of diamonds, and
the curlew's call echoed over the sea. How she had loved these things
in the gay and careless girlhood that began to seem so far away in the
past.

"That was Bonnibel Vere," she said to herself, "the girl that never
knew a sorrow. I am Bonnibel Dane, whose life must lie forever in the
shadow!"

She turned her course homeward, and as she stepped upon the shore she
picked out a little blue sea-flower that grew in a crevice of the rock,
and stood still a moment looking out over the blue expanse of ocean,
and repeating some pretty lines she had always loved:

    "'Tis sweet to sit midst a merry throng
     In the woods, and hear the wild-bird's song;
     But sweeter far is the ceaseless dirge,
     The music low of the moaning surge;
     It frets and foams on the shell-strewn shore,
     Forever and ever, and evermore.
     I crave no flower from the wood or field,
     No rare exotic that hot-beds yield;
     Give me the weeds that wildly cling,
     On the barren rocks their shelter fling;
     Those are the flowers beloved by me--
     They grow in the depths of the deep blue sea!"

A sudden voice and step broke on her fancied solitude. She turned
quickly and found herself face to face with the wandering sibyl, Wild
Madge.

The half-crazed creature was, as usual, bare-headed, her white
locks streaming in the air, her frayed and tattered finery waving
fantastically about her lean, lithe figure. She looked at Bonnibel with
a hideous leer of triumph.

"Ah maiden!" she cried--"said I not truly that the bitter waters of
sorrow were about to flow over you? You will not mock the old woman's
predictions now."

Bonnibel stood silent, gazing in terrified silence at the croaking old
raven.

"Where is the gay young lover now?" cried Wild Madge laughing wildly.
"The summer lover who went away before the summer waned? Is he false,
or is he dead, maiden, that he is not here to shelter that bonny head
from the storms of sorrow?"

"Peace, woman," said Bonnibel, sadly. "Why do you intrude on my grief
with your unwelcome presence?"

"Unwelcome, is it, my bonnie bird? Ah, well! 'tis but a thankless task
to foretell the future to the young and thoughtless. But, Bonnibel
Vere, you will remember me, even though it be but to hate me. I tell
you your sorrows are but begun. New perils environ your future. Think
not that mine is but a boasted art. Those things which are hidden from
you lie open to the gaze of Wild Madge like a painted page. She can
read your hands; she can read the stars; she can read the open face of
nature!"

"You rave, poor creature," said Bonnibel, turning away with a shiver of
unreasoning terror, and pursuing her homeward way.

Wild Madge stood still on the shore a few minutes, looking after the
girl as her slim, black-robed figure walked away with the slow step of
weakness and weariness.

"It is a bonny maid," she said, aloud; "a bonny maid. Beautiful as an
angel, gentle as a dove. But beauty is a gift of the gods, and seldom
given for aught but sorrow."



CHAPTER VIII.


When Bonnibel arrived in New York the day after her rencontre with the
sibyl, she found her uncle's fine carriage in waiting for her at the
depot. Mrs. Arnold, though she would gladly have cast the girl off, was
too much afraid of the world's dictum to carry her wishes into effect.
She determined, therefore, that society should have no cause to accuse
her of failing in kindness to her husband's orphan niece. She knew well
what disapprobation and censure a contrary course would have created,
for the beautiful daughter of the famous General Vere, though she had
not yet been formally introduced to society, was widely celebrated for
her grace and beauty, and her _debut_, while she had been considered
her uncle's heiress, had been anticipated with much interest. Of course
her penniless condition now would make a great difference in the eyes
of the fickle world of fashion, but still Mrs. Arnold knew that nothing
could deprive Bonnibel of the prestige of birth and rank. The young
mother who had died in giving her birth, had been one of the proud and
well-born Arnolds. Her father, a gay and gallant soldier, though he had
quickly dissipated her mother's fortune, had yet left her a prouder
heritage than wealth--a fame that would live forever in the annals of
his country, perpetuating in history the name of the chivalrous soldier
who had gallantly fallen at the head of his command while engaged in
one of the most gallant actions on record.

So Bonnibel found a welcome, albeit a chilling one, waiting for her in
Mrs. Arnold's grand drawing-room when she arrived there cold and weary.
The mother and daughter touched her fingers carelessly, and offered
frigid congratulations upon her recovery. Mrs. Arnold then dismissed
her to her own apartments to rest and refresh her toilet under the care
of her maid.

"You need not be jealous of her youth and beauty any more, Felise,"
said Mrs. Arnold complacently to her daughter. "She has changed almost
beyond recognition. Did you ever see such a fright?"

Felise Herbert, hovering over the bright fire that burned on the marble
hearth, looked up angrily.

"Mother, you talk like a fool," she said, roughly. "How can you fail to
see that she is more beautiful than ever? She only looked like a great
wax doll before with her pink cheeks and long curls. Now with that
new expression that has come into her face she looks like a haunting
picture. One could not forget such a face. And mourning is perfectly
becoming to her blonde complexion, while my olive skin is rendered
perfectly hideous by it. I see no reason why I should spoil my looks
by wearing black for a man that was no relation of mine, and whom I
cordially hated!"

Mrs. Arnold saw that Felise was in a passion, and she began to grow
nervous accordingly. Felise, if that were possible, was a worse woman
than her mother, and possessed an iron will. She was the power behind
the throne before whom Mrs. Arnold trembled in fear and bowed in
adoration.

She hastened to console the angry girl.

"I think you are mistaken, my dear," she said. "I cannot see a
vestige of prettiness left. Her hair is gone, her color has faded,
and she never smiles now to show the dimples that people used to call
so distracting. There are few that would give her a second glance.
Besides, what is beauty without wealth? You know in our world it simply
counts for nothing. She can never rival you a second now that it is
known that she has no money and that you will be my heiress."

The sullen countenance of Felise began to grow brighter at the latter
consolatory clause.

"As to the black," pursued Mrs. Arnold, "of course you and I know that
it is a mere sham; but then, Felise, it is necessary to make that much
concession to the opinion of the world. How they would cavil if you
failed in that mark of respect to the memory of your step-father."

"There is one consolation," said Felise, brightening up, "I can lay it
aside within a year."

"And then, no doubt, you will don the bridal robe as the wife of the
millionaire, Colonel Carlyle," Mrs. Arnold rejoined, with an air of
great satisfaction.

"Perhaps so," said her daughter, clouding over again; "but you need not
be so sure. He has not proposed yet."

"But he will soon," asserted the widow, confidently.

"I expected he would do so, until now," said Felise, sharply. "The old
dotard appeared to admire me very much; but since Bonnibel Vere has
returned to flaunt her baby-beauty before him, his fickle fancy may
turn to her. A pretty face can make a fool of an old man, you know."

"We must keep her in the background, then," said Mrs. Arnold,
reassuringly. "Not that I am the least apprehensive of danger, my dear,
but since your fears take that direction he shall not see her until
all is secure, and you must bring him to the point as soon as possible."

"I have done my best," said Felise, "but he hovers on the brink
apparently afraid to take the leap. I cannot understand such dawdling
on the part of one who has already buried two wives. He cannot be
afflicted with timidity."

"We must give him a hint that I shall settle fifty thousand dollars on
you the day you marry," said her mother. "I have heard that he is very
avaricious. It is a common vice of age and infirmity. He fears you will
spend his wealth too freely."

"And so I will, if I get a chance," said Felise, coarsely. "I have been
stinted all my life by the stepfather who hated me. Let me but become
Mrs. Colonel Carlyle, and I assure you I will queen it right royally."

"You would become the position very much," said the admiring mother,
"and I should be very proud of my daughter's graceful ease in spending
her husband's millions."

Miss Herbert's proud lips curled in triumph. She arose and began to
pace the floor restlessly, her eyes shining with pleased anticipation
of the day which she hoped was not far distant when she would marry
the rich man whose wealth she coveted, and become a queen in society.
She looked around her at the splendor and elegance of her mother's
drawing-room with dissatisfaction, and resolved that her own should be
far more fine and costly, her attire more extravagant, and her diamonds
more splendid. She was tired of reigning with her mother. She wanted to
rule over a kingdom of her own.

Felise had no more heart than a stone. Her only god was wealth, and her
ambition was towering. She thought only of self, and felt not the first
emotion of gratitude to the mother who had schemed and planned for her
all her life. All she desired was unbounded wealth and the power to
rule in her own right.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Miss Felise has caught a beau at last," said Bonnibel's maid to her
as she brushed the soft locks of her mistress. She had been having a
hasty chat with Miss Herbert's maid since her arrival that day, and had
gathered a good deal of gossip in the servants' hall.

"Indeed?" asked Bonnibel, languidly, "what is his name, Lucy?"

"He is a Colonel Carlyle, miss; a very old man Janet do say, but worth
his millions. He have buried his two wives already, I hear, and Miss
Herbert is like to be a third one. I wish him joy of her; Janet knows
what her temper is."

"You need not speak so, Lucy," said Bonnibel, reprovingly, to the maid
whose loquacity was far ahead of her grammar. "I daresay Janet gives
her cause to indulge in temper sometimes."

"Lor! Miss Bonnibel," said Lucy, "Janet is as mild as a dove; but Miss
Felise, she have slapped Janet's mouth twice, and scolds her day in and
day out. Janet says that Colonel Carlyle will catch a Tartar when he
gets her."

"Be quiet, Lucy; my head aches," said Bonnibel, thinking it very
improper for the girl to discuss her superior's affairs so freely; she
therefore dismissed the subject and thought no more about it, little
dreaming that it was one portentous of evil to herself.

Felise need not have troubled herself with the fear of Bonnibel's
rivalry. The young girl was only too willing to be kept in the
background. In the seclusion which Mrs. Arnold deemed it proper to
observe after their dreadful and tragic bereavement they received
but few visitors and Bonnibel was glad that her recent illness was
considered a sufficient pretext for denying herself to even these
few. Some there were--a few old friends and one or two loving
schoolmates--who refused to be denied and whom Bonnibel reluctantly
admitted, but these few found her so changed in appearance and broken
in spirit that they went away marveling at her persistent grief for the
uncle whom the world blamed very much because he had failed to provide
for her as became her birth and position.

But while the world censured Mr. Arnold's neglect of her, Bonnibel
never blamed her uncle by word or thought. She believed what he had
told her on the memorable evening of his death. He _had_ provided for
her, she knew, and the will, perhaps, had been lost. What had become of
it she could not conjecture, but she was far from imputing foul play
to anyone. The thought never entered her mind. She was too pure and
innocent herself to suspect evil in others, and the overwhelming horror
of her uncle's tragic death still brooded over her spirit to the utter
exclusion of all other cares save _one_, and that one a sore, sore
trial that it needed all her energies to endure, the silence of Leslie
Dane and her anxieties regarding his fate; for still the days waned and
faded and no tidings came to the sick heart that waited in passionate
suspense for a sign from the loved and lost one.

Strange to say, she had never learned the fatal truth that Leslie Dane
stood charged with her uncle's murder, and that justice was still on
the alert to discover his whereabouts. During her severe and nearly
fatal illness all approach to the subject of the murder had been
prohibited by the careful physician, and on her convalescence the
newspapers had been excluded from her sight and the subject tabooed in
her presence. She had forgotten the solemn charge of Felise Herbert
and her mother that fatal night which she had so indignantly refuted.
Now she was spared the knowledge that the malignity of the two women
had succeeded in fixing the crime on the innocent head of the man she
loved. Had Bonnibel known that fact she would have left Mrs. Arnold's
roof although starvation and death had been the inevitable consequence.
But she did not know, and so moped and pined in her chamber, tearful
and utterly despairing, oblivious to the fact that she was doing what
Felise most desired in thus secluding herself.



CHAPTER IX.


A blind chance at last brought about the fatal meeting between
Bonnibel Vere and Colonel Carlyle which Felise Herbert so greatly
dreaded and deprecated.

As the autumn months merged into winter Bonnibel had developed a
new phase of her trouble. A great and exceeding restlessness took
possession of her.

She no longer moped in her chamber, thinking and thinking on the one
subject that began to obscure even the memory of her Uncle Francis. She
had brooded over Leslie's strange silence until her brain reeled with
agony--now a strange longing for oblivion and forgetfulness took hold
upon her.

"Oh! for that fabled Lethean draught which men drink and straightway
all the past is forgotten!" she would murmur wildly as she paced
the floor, wringing her beautiful hands and weeping. "Either Leslie
has deserted me or he is dead. In either case it is wretchedness to
remember him! Oh! that I could forget!"

Shrouded in her thick veil and long cloak she began to take long
rambling walks every day, returning weary and fatigued, so that sleep,
which for awhile had deserted her pillow, began to return, and in long
and heavy slumbers she would lose for a little while the memory of the
handsome artist so deeply loved in that brief and beautiful summer.
Those days were gone forever. Her brief spring of happiness was over.
It seemed to her that the only solace that remained to her weary heart
was forgetfulness.

Once, rendered desperate by her suspense, she had written a letter to
Leslie--a long and loving letter, full of tender reproaches for his
silence, and containing the whole story of her uncle's tragic death.
She had begged him to send her just one little line to assure her that
she was not forgotten, and this beautiful little letter, filled with
the pure thoughts of her innocent heart, she had directed to Rome,
Italy.

No answer came to that yearning cry from the aching heart of the little
wife. She waited until hope became a hideous mockery. She began to
think how strange it was that she, little Bonnibel Vere, who looked so
much like a child, with her short hair, and baby-blue eyes, was really
a wife. But for the shining opal ring with its pretty inscription,
"Mizpah," which Leslie had placed upon her finger that night, she would
have begun to believe that it was all a fevered dream.

She was thinking of that ring one day as she walked along the crowded
street, filled with eager shoppers, for Christmas was drawing near, and
people were busy providing holiday gifts for their dear ones.

"_Mizpah!_" she repeated to herself, walking heedlessly along the wet
and sleety pavement. "That means '_the Lord watch between thee and me
while we are absent one from another_.' Oh, Leslie, Leslie!"

Absorbed in painful thoughts she began to quicken her steps, quite
forgetful of the thin sheet of ice that covered the pavement, and which
required very careful walking. How it happened she could not think, but
the next moment she felt one ankle twisting suddenly beneath her with a
dreadful pain in it, and found herself falling to the ground. With an
exclamation of terror she tried to recover her balance, but vainly. She
lay extended on the ground, her hat and veil falling off and exposing
her beautiful pale face with its clustering locks of sunny hair.

People crowded around her immediately, but the first to reach her was a
gentleman who was coming out of a jewelry store in front of which she
had slipped and fallen.

He lifted her up tenderly, and a woman restored her hat and veil.

Bonnibel tried to stand upon her feet and thank them both for their
timely aid.

To her terror a sharp twinge of pain in her ankle warned her that she
could not stand upon it. She uttered a cry of pain and her blue eyes
filled with quick tears.

"I--I fear my ankle is sprained," she said, "I cannot stand upon it."

"Never mind," said the gentleman, melted by the tears and the beauty
of the sufferer. "Here is my carriage at the curbstone. Give me your
address and I will take you home immediately."

Bonnibel was growing so faint from the pain of her sprained ankle that
she could scarcely speak, but she murmured brokenly: "Fifth Avenue,
number ----," and with a slight exclamation of surprise he lifted her
into the carriage and gave the order to the driver.

She leaned her head back against the satin cushions of the carriage and
closed her eyes wearily!

"I beg your pardon," said her companion's voice, arousing her suddenly
from the deathly faintness that was stealing over her, "but I think you
must be Miss Bonnibel Vere, Mrs. Arnold's niece. Perhaps you have heard
her mention me. I am Colonel Carlyle."

Bonnibel opened her eyes with a start, and looked at him, instantly
recalling the gossip of her maid, Lucy. So this was Colonel Carlyle,
Felise Herbert's elderly lover. She gave him a quick, curious glance.

He was an old man, certainly, and apparently made no attempt to
disguise the fact, for the curling locks that still clustered
abundantly on his head were silvered by time, as well as the long beard
that flowed down upon his breast.

His features were aristocratic in contour, his mouth rather stern, his
eyes still dark and piercing, though he could not have been less than
seventy years old. He was dressed with taste and elegance, and his
stately form was quite erect and stately.

"Yes, I have heard of you, Colonel Carlyle," Bonnibel answered,
quietly, "but I cannot imagine how you could know who I am. We have
never met before."

"No," he answered, with a gallant bow and smile, "we have not, I have
never had the happiness of meeting you, though I have frequently
visited at your home. But the fame of Miss Vere's beauty has gone forth
into the land, and when you named your address I knew you could be no
other."

Bonnibel bowed silently. Something in the graceful flattery of his
words or tone jarred upon her. Besides, she was in such pain from her
ankle that she felt it an effort to speak.

He observed the whiteness of her face, and said quickly:

"Pardon me, but I fear you are suffering from your sprain."

"Somewhat," she admitted, through her white lips.

"Bear it as bravely as you can," he said. "In a few minutes you will
be at home, and can have medical attention. Sprains are quite serious
things sometimes, though I hope yours may not result that way."

"I hope not," she echoed, growing paler and paler, and biting her lips
to repress the moan of pain that trembled on them. She was really
suffering acute pain from the twisted ankle.

He was silent a minute, studying the beautiful, pale face with admiring
eyes.

She looked up and met a world of deep sympathy shining on her from his
keen, dark eyes.

"I was very fortunate in meeting you, Colonel Carlyle," she said,
gently. "Believe me, I am much indebted for your timely aid."

"I am glad to have been of service to your father's daughter," said
the colonel, bowing. "I knew your father intimately in the army, Miss
Vere. We were friends, though the general was my junior in age and my
superior in rank. I have often wondered what poor Harry's daughter was
like. He was so frank, so handsome, so chivalrous, so daring."

The girl's blue eyes lit up with pleasure at his praise of the father
who had died in her infancy, but whose memory she loved and revered.
She put out her hand, saying proudly:

"I thank you for your praise of him, Colonel Carlyle. Let my father's
friend be mine also."

And the wealthy colonel gave the little hand a fervent pressure,
feeling that those timely words of his had gained him a great
advantage--one of which he would not be slow to avail himself.

He was about to express his pride and satisfaction at her words in
glowing terms when, with a faint cry, she sank back against the
cushions and closed her eyes. She had succumbed to her pain in spite of
herself and fainted.

Fortunately they were within a block of the house. The colonel seated
himself beside her and supported her helpless head on his arm until
the carriage stopped in front of Mrs. Arnold's splendid brown-stone
mansion. Then he carefully lifted the fair burden in his arms and
carried her across the pavement and up the steps, where he rang the
bell.

The obsequious servant who opened the door to him stared in surprise
and alarm at his burden, but silently threw open the drawing-room door,
where Felise and her mother sat in company with a few visitors.

Both sprang up in bewilderment as Colonel Carlyle entered with a bow
and laid the insensible Bonnibel down upon the sofa. She looked like
one dead as she lay there with her closed eyes and deathly-white face,
and limp hands hanging down helplessly.

"What has happened, Colonel Carlyle?" demanded Felise, stepping
forward, as he bent over Bonnibel, while her mother and the guests
echoed her words: "What has happened?"

"Miss Vere slipped and fell upon the ice," he answered, "and has
sustained some serious injury. She has suffered much pain. Let her have
medical attendance at once."

"But you," said Felise, abruptly, and almost rudely. "How came you with
her?"

Colonel Carlyle looked at her in slight surprise.

"I was about crossing the pavement to enter my carriage," he explained,
rather coolly, "when the accident occurred, and I had the happiness to
be of service in bringing her home."

And Felise, as she watched him bending anxiously over the girl she
hated, wished in her heart that Bonnibel Vere might never recover from
the swoon that looked so much like death.



CHAPTER X.


"A merry Christmas, Bonnibel, and many happy returns of the day."

Bonnibel Vere, lying helplessly on the sofa in her dressing-room,
looked up with a start of surprise.

Felise Herbert was entering with her cat-like steps and a deceitful
smile wreathing her thin lips.

"Thank you, Felise," she answered wearily, "though your wishes can
scarcely bear fruit to-day."

"Are you suffering so much pain to-day?" asked Felise, dropping into an
easy-chair and resting her head with its crown of dark braids against
its violet velvet lining.

"My ankle is rather painful."

"We are going to have a few friends to dine with us to-day--Colonel
Carlyle is among them--and we thought--mother and I--that you might
be well enough to come down into the drawing-room," said the visitor,
watching the invalid keenly under her drooping lashes.

But the feverish flush on the girl's cheek did not deepen under the
jealous scrutiny of the watcher. She watched with a sigh of positive
relief.

"Many thanks, but it is not possible for me to do so, Felise; Doctor
Graham said that I must remain closely confined to my sofa at least
two weeks. And indeed I could not leave it if I tried. My foot is much
swollen and I cannot stand at all."

She pushed out the little member from under the skirt of her warm white
wrapper, and Felise saw that she spoke truly.

She rose and came nearer under pretense of examining it.

"Why, what a pretty little ring you wear--is it a new one?" said
she suddenly, and in an instant she had dexterously slipped it off
Bonnibel's finger, and, holding it up, read the inscription within,
"Mizpah!" "Why, how romantic! Is it a love token, Bonnibel?"

Bonnibel's lips were quivering like a grieved child's, and quick tears
sprang into her eyes.

"Felise," she said, reproachfully, "you should not have taken it off.
I never meant for that ring to leave my finger while I lived, never!"

Felise laughed--a low, sneering laugh--and tossed her jetty braids.

"Here, take your ring," she said scornfully; "I did not know you were
going to be such a baby over it. It must have been the gift of a lover
to be so highly prized--perhaps it was given you by Leslie Dane."

Bonnibel slipped the ring back on her tapering third finger, while a
hot flush mounted to her brow.

"You seem very curious over my ring, Felise," she said, angrily. "I do
not suppose it can matter to you at all who the giver may be."

"Oh! not in the least," said Felise, airily. "I beg your pardon for
teasing you about it. But if someone should give me a prettier ring
than that soon I should not mind telling you the donor. And by the
way," said she, walking to the window and peering out through the lace
curtains, "you must tell me, Bonnibel, how you liked Colonel Carlyle
the other day."

"I should be very ungrateful if I did not like him very well," said the
girl, simply. "He was very good to me."

"That is an evasive answer," said Felise, laughing. "Should you have
liked him if you had not been prompted thereto by gratitude?"

"I am sure I do not know. I was suffering such acute pain I hardly
thought of him until he told me he had been an intimate friend of my
papa while in the army. And he praised papa so highly I could not
choose but like him for his words."

"The cunning old fox," said Felise to herself, while she drew her black
brows angrily together. "Already he has been trying to find the way to
her heart."

"He is rather fine-looking for one who is certainly no longer
young--don't you think so, Bonnibel?" pursued the wily girl.

"Certainly," said Bonnibel, willing to praise Colonel Carlyle because
she thought it would please Felise; "he does not seem so very old, and
he is quite handsome and stately-looking."

Whatever Felise might have replied to this was interrupted by the
entrance of Lucy, Bonnibel's maid. A broad smile lighted her comely,
good-natured features at the sight of the visitor.

"For you, miss," said she, going up to Bonnibel and putting in her hand
a small volume of splendidly-bound poems and a rare hot-house bouquet,
whose fragrance filled the room, and turning to Miss Herbert she added:
"Colonel Carlyle is waiting in the drawing-room, Miss Herbert."

Felise made no answer to the maid. She swept forward and looked at the
flowers in Bonnibel's hand.

It was a lovely bouquet, composed almost entirely of white flowers. A
lily filled the center, surrounded by exquisite rose-buds and waxen
tube-roses and azalias. The border of the lovely floral tribute was a
delicate fringe of blue forget-me-nots. On a small white card depending
from the bouquet was written these words:

"MISS VERE, with the compliments of the day from her father's friend."

"Her father's friend," said Felise, reading it aloud. "That must mean
Colonel Carlyle."

"I suppose so," said Bonnibel, simply. "He is very kind to remember me
to-day. You will thank him for me, Felise."

"Certainly," Felise answered.

She took up the book--a handsome copy of one of the modern poets--and
glanced rapidly through it, but found no writing or underscoring within
it, as her jealous fancy had expected.

"I must go," she said, putting it down and trailing her silken skirts
hurriedly from the room.

Lucy looked after her with a slight smile. She, in common with all
the domestics, hated the overbearing Felise and it pleased her to see
what her innocent young mistress never dreamed of--that Mrs. Arnold's
daughter was furiously jealous and angry because of her suitor's
tribute to Bonnibel.

The colonel's tribute to Miss Herbert was a much more pretentious one
than that which had been the cause of arousing her jealousy up-stairs.
He brought her a bracelet of gold, set with glowing rubies, and a
bouquet that was a perfect triumph of the floral art. Its central
flower was a white japonica, and sprigs of scarlet salvia blazed around
it; but Felise remembered the modest white lily up-stairs, with its
suggestive circle of forget-me-nots, and her eyes blazed with scarcely
concealed anger as she thanked the colonel for his gifts.

Colonel Carlyle was in brilliant spirits to-day. Always a fine talker,
he surpassed himself on this occasion, and the guests exchanged
significant glances, thinking that surely he had proposed to Miss
Herbert and been accepted, for she, too, appeared more fascinating
than usual, and exerted herself to please her elderly suitor. She had
laid aside the more cumbrous appendages of mourning, such as crape and
bombazine, and appeared in a handsome black silk, with filmy white
laces at throat and wrists. A single spray of the scarlet salvia,
carelessly broken and fastened in her dark hair, brightened her whole
appearance, and made her creamy, olive complexion beautiful by the
contrast. She was looking her best, as she wanted to do, for she felt
that she was about to lose her slight hold upon the millionaire's heart
and she meant to do her best to win back her lost ground.

Alas for Felise's prospects! A pair of tearful, violet eyes, a little,
white face, a quivering baby mouth, drawn with pain, had totally
obscured the image of her bright, dark beauty in the colonel's heart.
He was as foolishly in love with Bonnibel's dainty loveliness as any
boy of twenty, and through all his brilliant talk to-day his heart
was bounding with the thought of her, and he was revolving plans in
his mind to free himself from what had almost become an entanglement
with Miss Herbert, that he might spread his net to catch the beautiful
little white dove that had fluttered across his path.

"Miss Vere is better, I trust," he found courage to ask of Mrs. Arnold
before he left that evening. His guilty conscience made him shrink from
asking Felise even that simple question. He knew that he had paid her
sufficient attention to warrant her in expecting a proposal, and now he
began to feel just a little afraid of the flash of her great dark eyes.

"She is better," Mrs. Arnold answered, coldly; "but not able to leave
her sofa. Doctor Graham thinks it will be several weeks before she is
well."

"So," the enamored colonel thought to himself, "it will be several
weeks before I can see her again. That seems like an eternity."



CHAPTER XI.

    "'Italia, oh, Italia, thou who hast
      The fatal gift of beauty: which became
      A funeral dower of present woes and past,'"

repeated the voice of a young man leaning from an upper window, and
looking down upon the antique streets of famous Rome.

"I think you have more taste for poetry than painting, Carl," said a
second voice.

The scene is an artist's studio, up four flights of stairs, and very
near the sky. A large skylight gives admission to the clear and radiant
light, and the windows are open for the soft breeze to enter the room,
though it is the month of December in that fair Italian clime, where it
is always summer. Pictures and palettes, statuettes and bronzes adorn
the walls, and somewhat litter the room, and its only two occupants
wear artists' blouses, though one of the wearers sits idly at the
window gazing down into the street. He is blonde and stout, with gay
blue eyes, and is unmistakably German, while his darker companion, who
is busily painting away at a picture, is just as certainly an American.
They both bear their nationalities plainly in their faces.

"Poetry and painting are sister arts, I think," said Carl Muller,
laughing. "The poets paint with words as we do with colors. They have
the advantage of us poor devils, for their word-paintings remain
beautiful forever, while our ochres crack and our crimsons fade."

"You should turn poet, then, Carl."

"I had some thought of it once," said the mercurial Carl, laughing,
"but upon making trial of my powers, I found that I lacked the divine
afflatus."

"Say rather that you lacked the more prosaic attribute that you lack in
painting--_industry_," said the American.

"Whatever failing I may have in this respect is fully atoned for by
you, Leslie. Never saw I a poor dauber so deeply wedded to his art.
Your perseverance is simply marvelous."

"It is the only way to conquer fame, Carl. There is no royal road to
success," said the artist, painting busily away as he talked.

Carl yawned lazily and repeated Beattie's well-known lines:

    "'Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
      The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar;
      Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime,
      Has felt the influence of malignant star,
      And waged with fortune an eternal war!'"

"The 'malignant star' in your case means _idleness_, Carl. You have
talent enough if you would but apply yourself. Up, up, man, and get to
your work."

"It is impossible to conquer my constitutional inertia this evening,
Leslie. To-morrow I will vie with you in perseverance and labor like a
galley-slave," laughed the German, stretching his lazy length out of
the window.

There was silence a few moments. Carl was absorbed in something going
on in the street below--perhaps a street fight between two fiery
Italians, or perhaps the more interesting sight of some pretty woman
going to mass or confession--while Leslie Dane's brush moved on
unweariedly over his task. Evidently it was a labor of love.

"I should like to know where you get your models, Leslie," said Carl
Muller, looking back into the room. "You do not have the Italian type
of women in your faces. What do you copy from?"

"Memory," said the artist, laconically.

"Do you mean to say that you know a woman anywhere half as beautiful as
the women you put on your canvas?"

"I know one so transcendently lovely that the half of her beauty can
never be transferred to canvas," said Leslie Dane, while a flush of
pride rose over his features.

"In America?" asked Carl.

"In America," answered Leslie.

"Whew!" said the German, comprehensively. "I thought you did not care
for women, Mr. Dane."

"I never said so, Carl," said Leslie Dane, smiling.

"I know--but actions speak louder than words. You avoid them, you
decline invitations where you are likely to meet them, and the handsome
models vote you a perfect bear."

"Because there is but one woman in the whole world to me," answered
Leslie Dane, and he paused a moment in his painting, and looked away
with a world of tenderness in his large, dark eyes.

Carl Muller began to look interested.

"Ah! now I see why you work so hard," he said. "There is a woman at the
bottom of it. There is always a woman at the bottom of everything that
goes on in this world whether it be good or evil."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Leslie, resuming his work with a sigh to the
memory of the absent girl he loved.

    "Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
     For love is heaven, and heaven is love,"

hummed Carl in his rich tenor voice.

"Leslie, you will accompany me to the _fete_ to-night?" said he,
presently.

"Thank you. I do not care to go," said Leslie.

"Heavens, what a selfish fellow!" said Carl, turning back to the
window.

Silence fell between them again. The soft breeze came sighing in at the
window ruffling Carl's sunny curls and caressing Leslie Dane's cheek
with viewless fingers.

A pot of violets on the window ledge filled the air with delicate
perfume. After that evening the scent of violets always came to Leslie
Dane wedded to a painful memory.

There was a heavy step at the door. Their portly landlady pushed her
head into the room.

"Letters, gentlemen," she said.

Carl Muller sprang up with alacrity.

"All for me, of course," he said. "Nobody ever writes to Dane."

He took the packet and went back to his seat, while his companion, with
a smothered sigh, went on with his work. It was quite true that no one
ever wrote to him, yet he still kept waiting and hoping for one dear
letter that never--never came.

"Ah, by Jove! but I was mistaken," Carl broke out suddenly. "Hurrah,
Leslie, here's a love letter from the girl you left behind you."

He held up a little creamy-hued envelope, smooth and thick as satin,
addressed in a lady's elegant hand, and Leslie Dane caught it almost
rudely from him. Carl gave a significant whistle and returned to his
own correspondence.

Leslie Dane tore open the letter so long waited and hoped for, and
devoured its contents with passionate impatience. It was very brief.
Let us glance over his shoulder and read what was written there:

  "LESLIE," she wrote, "your letters have kept coming and coming, and
  every one has been like a stab to my heart. I pray you never to write
  to me again, for I have repented in bitterness of spirit the blind
  folly into which you led me that night. Oh, how could you do it? I
  was but a child. I did not know what love meant, and I was bewildered
  and carried away by your handsome face, and the romance of that
  moonlight flitting. It was wicked, it was cruel, Leslie, to bind me
  so, for, oh, God, I _love_ another now, and I never can be his! But
  at least I will _never_ be yours. I have burned your letters, and I
  shall hate your memory as long I live for the cruel wrong you did me.
  God forgive you, for I never can!

                                                       "BONNIBEL."

Leslie Dane threw that dreadful letter down and ground it beneath his
heel as though it had been a deadly serpent. It was, for it had stung
him to the heart.

Carl Muller looked up at the strange sound of that grinding boot-heel,
and saw his friend standing fixedly staring, into vacancy, his dark
eyes blazing like coals of fire, his handsome face pallid as death, and
set in a tense look of awful despair and bitterness terrible to behold.

Carl Muller sprang up and shook him violently by the arm.

"My God! Leslie," he cried, "what is it? What has happened to move you
so? Is there anyone dead?"

The handsome artist did not seem to hear him. He stood immovable save
for the horrid crunching of his boot-heel as it ground that fatal
letter into fragments.

"Leslie," exclaimed Carl, "speak, for mercy's sake! You cannot imagine
how horrible you look!"

Thus adjured Leslie Dane shook off his friend's clasp roughly, and
strode across the room to a recess where a veiled picture hung against
the wall.

He had always refused to show it to his brother artist, but now he
pushed the covering aside, disclosing a female head surrounded by
silvery clouds like that of an angel. The face, framed in waving masses
of golden hair, was lighted by eyes of tender violet, and radiantly
beautiful.

"Look Carl," said the artist in a changed and hollow voice, "is not
that the face of an angel?"

Carl Muller looked at the lovely face in wonder and delight.

"Beautiful, beautiful!" he exclaimed, "it is the face of a seraph!"

"Yes, it is the face of a seraph," repeated Leslie Dane. "The face of a
seraph, but oh, God, she is _fickle_, _faithless_, _false_!"

He stood still a moment looking at the fair young face smiling on him
in its radiant beauty, then caught up his brush and swept it across the
canvas.

One touch, the tender blue eyes were obliterated, another, and the
curved red lips were gone with their loving smile, another and another,
and the whole angelic vision was blotted from the canvas forever.



CHAPTER XII.


"No, don't attempt to excuse yourself, mother! If you had taken my
advice, and turned your wax doll out upon the world to look out for
herself, this would never have happened! But no, you must saddle
yourself with the charge of her, and pamper her as foolishly as her
uncle did! And now you see the result of your blind folly. It needed
but one sight of her baby-face by that old dotard to ruin my prospects
for life. I hope you are satisfied with your work!"

It was ten o'clock at night, and Felise Herbert had come into her
mother's room in her dressing-gown, with her dark hair hanging over her
shoulders, and her eyes flashing angrily, to upbraid her mother for her
weakness in the matter of Bonnibel Vere.

"You should have turned her adrift upon the world," she repeated,
stamping her slippered foot angrily. "She might have starved to death
for all I cared! _After all I did for you_, I think you could have done
that much to please _me_!"

"But, Felise, you know it was quite impossible to take such extreme
measures without incurring the censure of the world, and perhaps its
suspicion!" said Mrs. Arnold, deprecatingly.

"Who cares for suspicion--they could not prove anything!" said Felise,
snapping her fingers.

"No, perhaps not," Mrs. Arnold answered, "but all the same, I should
not like to run the risk. You are blinded by anger, Felise; or you
would reason more clearly. You know I did not want to keep the girl
here. I hate her as much as you do. I have hated her ever since she was
born, but you know I dare not turn her off. Society would taboo us if
we dared hint such a thing. Turn a girl of her aristocratic antecedents
out upon the world to earn her living, while I am rolling in wealth!
A girl who knows no more of the world than a baby! The daughter of
General Vere, the niece of my dead husband! Felise, you must see that
it would never do!"

"It would if I had been suffered to have my way," answered the girl,
marching angrily up and down the floor. "To be thwarted this way in my
prospect of making the most brilliant match of the season is too bad!
It is shameful! For her to step into my place this way makes me hate
her worse than ever!"

"But, Felise, she _cannot_ step into your place, my dear. Did you not
tell me you had learned from Leslie Dane's intercepted letters that
the girl was secretly married to him? Why did you meddle with their
correspondence, anyway? Why not have let him come back in time to claim
her? She would then have been out of your way!"

"Mother, you talk like a fool!" exclaimed the daughter, angrily. "You
know I dare not let Leslie Dane return here! I am compelled to keep
him out of the country for the sake of my own safety. I am compelled
to separate the two because he must not hear of the charge of murder
that we made against him. If she should hear it, as she is likely to
do at any time, and should communicate it to him, what would be the
consequence? He would return here and disprove the charge at once.
Bonnibel was with him that night. They went to Brandon and were married
while your husband was being mur---- put out of the way. He could prove
an _alibi_ at once. You talk of suspicion--where would suspicion fall
then?"

"Surely not on us, Felise!" said Mrs. Arnold, fearfully.

"And why not?" sneered the girl. "If the now quiescent subject were
agitated again what absurd theories might not be propounded by the
suspicious world? Who can tell whether Wild Madge could keep the
secret? I tell you I have only consulted our vital interests in
separating Leslie Dane and Bonnibel Vere, though to do so I have had
to destroy my every prospect of becoming the millionaire's wife. I am
compelled to keep that beggarly artist out of the country at any cost."

"But, my dear, there is no chance of Bonnibel marrying Colonel Carlyle
even though she should be separated forever from her artist-husband,
for she is a married woman anyhow. One hint of this to Colonel Carlyle
would make your affair all right with him again!"

"It would not," answered Felise, passionately. "He is madly in love
with her. Have I not seen it in these few weeks since she has been
well enough to come down-stairs? Has not the old fool hung over her as
dotingly as any boy-lover could do? Suppose I told him the truth? Do
you think he would return to me? No, he would only hate me because I
had shattered his brilliant air castle!"

"I am surprised that Bonnibel tolerates his attentions as she does,"
said Mrs. Arnold, stirring up the fire that was beginning to burn low
in the grate.

"She does not suspect what the old fox is after; I will do her that
much justice," said Felise, bitterly. "He is very cautious. He has
a thousand tales of her father's prowess with which to pave his way
and awaken her interest. She makes an idol of her wretched father who
squandered every penny of her mother's fortune, and only redeemed
himself by dying recklessly in some foolish charge on the battle-field!"

She resumed her walk up and down the floor which she had temporarily
ceased during the last outburst. She was furiously angry.

Her eyes blazed luridly, her lips were curled back from her glittering
teeth, her step seemed to spurn the floor. Her mother watched her
uneasily.

"Felise, do you not fret yourself, my dear. I am persuaded that
everything will come right soon. Suppose Colonel Carlyle is in love
with Bonnibel. If he proposes to her she is compelled to refuse his
offer. What more natural than that he should return to you then, and
make you his wife. Hearts are often caught on the rebound, you know."

"Mother, hush! You talk like a simpleton as you are!" was the fierce
retort.

Mrs. Arnold was stung to anger by the unprovoked insolence of her
daughter. She rose and looked at her in dignified displeasure.

"Felise," she said, threateningly, "you are my daughter, but you must
not suppose that I will tamely bear the continued disrespect and
contumely I have lately been forced to receive at your hands. In your
rage at losing Colonel Carlyle you seem to forget that it is in my
power to make you almost as wealthy as he could do. Remember, I am a
very rich woman, and I can leave my wealth to whom I please."

"And who placed you in that position?" sneered Felise. "How much would
you have been worth but for my constant care of your interests? A third
of your husband's property, which was all you could legally claim! That
was what he said to his big wax-doll. The balance of his money was
for her, to make her a queen and win the homage of the world for her.
Perhaps you will leave her the money I have risked so much to gain for
you?"

"Felise, this is but idle recrimination. You know I would not leave
Bonnibel Vere a penny to save her soul from perdition, and you know
I have been scheming all my life to get that money for you, and that
I will certainly give it to you. But I do not understand your mood
to-night. What is it that you wish me to do?"

"Nothing, nothing! Months ago I begged you to send the girl away and
you refused me. You knew I hated her, and you knew I spared nothing
that came in my way. She has come between me and my dearest ambition.
Now let her look to herself. I tell you, mother, I will take a
_terrible revenge_ on Bonnibel Vere for what I have lost. _I have sworn
it, and I will surely keep my vow!_"

She stood still a moment with upraised hands, looking fixedly at her
mother, then she turned and went swiftly from the room.

Mrs. Arnold stared after her blankly. She was a cruel and wicked woman,
but she would not have dared to go such lengths as her daughter. She
was afraid of her daughter, and frightened at the terrible intent
expressed in her tone and manner.

"My God!" she murmured, with a shiver, "what rash act is she about to
commit?"



CHAPTER XIII.


Colonel Carlyle was as deeply infatuated with Bonnibel Vere as
the jealous Felise had declared him to be; but, as she had always
asserted, he was very wily and cautious in his advances. He was afraid
of frightening the pretty bird he wished to ensnare. He, therefore,
adopted a deportment of almost fatherly tenderness toward her that was
very pleasant to the lonely girl, who missed her uncle's protecting
care so much, and who also began to perceive in Mrs. Arnold and her
daughter a changed manner, which, while it could scarcely be colder
than usual, was tinged with an indefinable shade of insolence.

Poor, pretty Bonnibel! she had fallen upon dark days. She had been
deceived by Mrs. Arnold's protestations at first, but by degrees a new
light began to break upon her. Mrs. Arnold began to practice a degree
of parsimony toward her that was bewildering to the girl. She withdrew
Bonnibel's allowance of money, and at last the girl found her dainty
little purse quite empty, and likely to remain so--a thing that had
never happened to her before in the course of her life, for her uncle
had been lavishly generous to her in respect to pin-money. Her supply
of mourning was extremely limited, and but for her quiet mode of life
would have been quite inadequate to her needs.

But if Mrs. Arnold had wished to diminish Bonnibel's beauty by giving
it so meager a setting she failed in the endeavor. The jewel was too
bright to miss extraneous adornment.

The somber black dresses could not dim the gleam of her golden hair,
the sparkle of her sea-blue eyes. Her white brow and throat were like
the petals of a lily, and with returning health a lovely rose-tint
began to flush her cheeks.

Her beauty was a royal dower of which no spite or malignity could
deprive her. Clothed upon with sackcloth she would still have remained,

    "A daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
     And most divinely fair."

Bonnibel knew that she was beautiful. She had heard it remarked so
often that she could not be ignorant of the fact.

In those past happy days that now seemed so far away she had taken a
childish, innocent pride in the knowledge. But now in her trouble and
loneliness she had forgotten it, or cared for it no more. So it never
occurred to her to ascribe the painful change in her aunt and Felise to
the fact that was quite obvious to others--the very plain fact that she
had unconsciously rivaled Felise with Colonel Carlyle and that he only
waited a proper season to declare himself.

There was none of the dawdling and hesitation now that had marked
his courtship of Felise and prevented him from making the important
declaration she had schemed and toiled for. He had virtually jilted
Felise, for he had done everything but speak the important words, but
the proud girl bore his desertion in ominous silence that boded no good
to the man who had thus wronged her.

Lucy and Janet, the respective maids of the two young ladies, held many
a whispered colloquy over Colonel Carlyle's defection. Janet indeed
was an object of sympathy in those days, for she had to bear the brunt
of Felise's anger, which was no slight thing to endure. Indeed, it is
probable that the much-enduring maid would have given warning on the
spot had it not been for an _affaire du cœur_ which she was carrying
out with the footman.

Rather than be separated from this object of her fond affections Janet
remained in Felise's service and endured her caprices and ill-treatment
with that heroic fortitude with which women from time immemorial have
borne slight and wrong for love's sake.

"Will Miss Bonnibel marry him, do you think, Lucy?" asked Janet at one
of their solemn conclaves.

"I don't know," Lucy answered. "Seems to me the child don't have the
least idea of what is going on right afore her eyes. I don't believe
she knows that the colonel is a courtin' her! She thinks he is a
friend, like, and because he knew her father in the army and talks a
good deal about his bravery, she listens to him and never dreams that
she has cut Miss Felise out right afore her face."

"And serves her right, too," said Janet, heartily, taking a malicious
pleasure in the defeat of her over-bearing mistress; "I, for one, am
downright glad that she has cut my lady out of her rich beau! It would
be a fine match for Miss Bonnibel since her uncle has left her without
a cent."

"I hope she will marry him," said Lucy. "Things isn't going at all to
my notion in this house, Janet. Sour looks and impident words is flung
around altogether too free in my young lady's hearing. And she getting
that shabby that she have got but one decent mourning gown to her back,
and I hear nothing said of a new one! As for money I don't believe Mrs.
Arnold has given her a single penny since her uncle died; I've seen her
little purse and it's quite empty. I'd have put a few of my own savings
into it, only I was afraid she might be angry."

"I hope she'll marry Carlyle and queen it over them both," said Janet.
"I tell you, Lucy, it was very strange that Mr. Arnold's _will_ wasn't
found. I am quite sure he made one--he wouldn't have slighted your
young lady intentionally. He loved that pretty little blue-eyed girl
as the apple of his eye, and there was small love lost between him and
t'other one. 'Twas mysterious the way things turned out at his death,
Lucy."

"Aye, it were," assented Lucy; "I heard Miss Bonnibel, myself, tell
Mrs. Arnold down at Sea View when she were sick, that her uncle told
her he had made a will and provided liberally for her. And Mrs. Arnold
laughed at her and pretended that the fever hadn't got out of her
head yet. _She_ didn't want to believe there was a will, Janet, _she_
didn't! Now I ask you, Janet, what has become of that there will?"

Janet laughed scornfully and significantly.

"Ah! it's gone where Miss Bonnibel's blue eyes will never shine on it,"
said she. "It'll never see the light of day again. All that she can do
is to marry Colonel Carlyle and get even with them all."

"I wish she would," sighed Lucy; "but I don't believe she will. They
said she was in love with a young artist last summer, and that her
uncle drove him away--the same young man they laid the murder on, you
know."

"Do you believe he did it, Lucy?"

"Not I," said Lucy, with a scornful sniff. "I'd sooner believe _they_
did it between themselves! I've seen the young man when he used to come
visiting the master at Sea View. A handsome young man he was, and that
soft-spoken he would not hurt a fly, I know. But he was poor and made
his living by drawing pictures, and since Miss Bonnibel is poor, too,
now, I'd rather she'd marry that rich old man, for, poor dear, what
good could _she_ do as a poor man's wife!"

"Has she forgotten the young feller, do you think?" inquired Janet,
thinking of her own "young feller" below stairs with a thrill of
romantic sympathy for Miss Vere's love affair.

"Oh, dear, _no_, and never _will_," said Lucy, confidently. "She never
names him; but I know she's been grieved and unhappy over and above
what natural grief for Mr. Arnold could amount to. But I doubt it's
all over between them. He's been in hiding, of course, somewhere, ever
since they accused him of the murder, and I doubt if Miss Bonnibel ever
sets her sweet blue eyes on his handsome face again."

"If he's not guilty why don't he come out and prove his innocence?"
exclaimed the romantic Janet. "What a fine scene there would be--Miss
Bonnibel all in smiles and tears of joy, and t'other ones scowling and
angry at them two lovers."

"Ah! I can't tell you _why_ he doesn't do so," answered Lucy, sighing;
"but there must be some good reason for't. No one could get me to
believe that Mr. Dane did that wicked and cruel murder! My young
mistress, so innocent as she is herself, could never have loved a man
that was mean enough to do that deed!"

The loud peal of Miss Herbert's dressing-room bell resounding through
the house broke up the conference between the maids, and Janet went
away to answer it, muttering, angrily:

"Lucy, I do wish we could change mistresses for awhile. I'm that tired
with tramping up and down to wait on that ill-natered upstart that all
my bones are sore."

So Bonnibel's circumstances and prospects were discussed in high life
up-stairs, and by servantdom down-stairs, while she herself, the most
interested party, was ignorant of it all.

How could she, whose torn heart was filled with one single aching
memory, take note of all that went on about her?

She was still living in the past, and took small heed of the present.
She thought Colonel Carlyle was still fond of Felise, and that his
little kindnesses and attention to her were offered to her for her
father's sake. She felt grateful to him, but that was all. She was not
pleased when he came, nor sorry when he went. So, when the long, cold
days of winter wore away and nature began to smile with the coming of a
genial spring, and Colonel Carlyle could restrain his impatient ardor
no longer, his proposal of marriage, worded with all the passion of a
younger lover, came upon her with the suddenness of a thunderbolt from
a clear sky.

"Surely, Mr. Carlyle, I have misunderstood your meaning," she said,
looking up at him when he ceased to speak, with terror and fright in
her large eyes. "You asked me to--to----"

"To _marry_ me," said the colonel. "You have not misunderstood me,
Bonnibel. I love you, my darling, as passionately as any young man
could do. I ask you to give yourself to me for my cherished wife. It
would be the sole aim of my life to make you happy. Will you be my
wife, little darling?"

"Why, you--you are engaged to Miss Herbert," said Bonnibel, in surprise
and reproach.

"I beg your pardon, my dear. I am not. I admire and esteem Miss Herbert
very much, but I have never addressed a word of love to her. It is
_you_ whom I love--_you_ whom I wish to make my wife," exclaimed the
ardent colonel.

"I certainly understood that you would marry Felise," answered
Bonnibel, gravely.

"It was a very serious error on your part, my dear little girl, for I
have been trying all the winter to make you see that I loved no one but
_you_."

"I never dreamed of such a thing," exclaimed the girl, in a tone of
genuine distress.

"Then you are the only one who did not suspect it," said he, in a
mortified tone. "The fact was very patent to all others."

Bonnibel looked down at the shimmering opal on her finger, and a blush
of shame rose over her delicate features. She thought to herself,
impulsively:

"This is dreadful for me--a wedded wife--to sit here and listen to such
words without the power of protesting against them."

"Perhaps you think I am too old for you, my angel," said the colonel,
breaking the silence; "but my heart and my feelings are much younger
than my years. I could not have loved you more ardently thirty years
ago. But if age is a fault in your eyes, my darling, I will atone for
it by every indulgence on earth, and by a deathless devotion."

"Oh, pray, do not say another word, Colonel Carlyle. It can never be,
sir. I can never be your wife!" exclaimed the girl, in deep agitation.

"But why not, my dearest girl?"

"I do not love you, sir," said the girl, cresting her graceful head
half-haughtily upon her slender throat.

"I will teach you to love me, darling. Come, say that you will let me
take you away from this house, where I can see that they hate you,
and make your life more happy. I will do anything to further your
happiness, Bonnibel," urged the colonel.

"What you wish is quite impossible, sir. I beg that you will dismiss
the subject, my dear, kind friend, and forget it," repeated Bonnibel,
earnestly.

"I will not take _no_ for an answer," replied the colonel, obdurately.
"I have taken you by surprise, and you do not know your own mind, my
dear little girl. I will give you a week to decide in. Think of all the
advantages I can offer you, Bonnibel, and of my devoted love, and say
_yes_ when I come back for your answer."

So saying he abruptly took his leave.



CHAPTER XIV.


"Mother, Bonnibel has refused Colonel Carlyle."

Mrs. Arnold looked up from the sofa where she lay reading a novel by
the gas-light with a start of surprise. Felise had come into the room
as quietly as a spirit in her white dressing-gown.

"Mercy, Felise, how you startled me!" she exclaimed. "I had just got to
such an exciting part where the heroine was just about to be murdered
by her jealous rival when in you came with your long hair and trailing
white wrapper, like Lady Macbeth walking in her sleep. I almost
expected to hear you exclaim:

"'Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will
not sweeten this little hand!'"

"You are quite dramatic to-night, mother--your novel must be an
exciting one," said Felise, with a slight sneer. She came forward and
sat down in a large easy-chair opposite her mother. She looked pale,
and her eyes burned with repressed excitement.

"It is," said Mrs. Arnold, "the most thrilling book I have read lately.
But what were you saying when you came in and frightened me so?"

"I said that Bonnibel had _refused_ Colonel Carlyle," repeated Felise,
distinctly.

Mrs. Arnold sat up with her fingers between the pages of her book,
whose interesting perusal she felt loth to stop. She said, half
stupidly:

"Oh, she has, has she? Well, it had to come to that, sooner or later,
you know, my love."

"Indeed?" answered Felise, shortly.

"Well, you know we have been expecting it some time, Felise, ever since
Colonel Carlyle lost his heart about her. I must say his conduct to you
has not been that of a gentleman, my dear."

"I quite agree with you," said Felise dryly.

She was very quiet, but her small hands were tightly clenched. She
seemed "to hold passion in a leash" by a strong effort of will.

"But how did you find it out?" inquired her mother, thinking that
Felise was taking it quite calmly, after all.

"As I find out most things--by keeping my eyes and ears open!" retorted
her daughter, tartly.

"When did it happen?"

"This afternoon, while you were out calling on the Trevertons."

"Was the old fool much cut up about it?" inquired Mrs. Arnold,
inelegantly.

"He would not take _no_ for an answer," said Felise. "He wanted her
to take time to think of all the advantages he offered her, and he is
coming in a week to hear her decision."

"The silly old dotard!" ejaculated her mother. "Well, all he can get by
his persistence is a second refusal."

Felise Herbert straightened herself in her chair, and looked at her
mother with a strange smile on her face.

"I do not intend that he shall get a _second refusal_!" she said, in a
low voice that was very firm and incisive.

Mrs. Arnold stared at her daughter in blank surprise and incredulity.

"Why, Felise, what can you mean?" she inquired.

"I mean that Bonnibel Vere shall marry Colonel Carlyle!" her daughter
answered, in the same low, determined voice.

"Why, my dear, you know it cannot be when she already has a _husband_!
Besides, I did not know that you wanted them to marry. I thought--I
thought--" said Mrs. Arnold, stopping short because surprise had
overpowered her.

She looked at the white figure sitting so quietly there in the
arm-chair, with some apprehension. Had Felise's disappointment impaired
her reason?

"You need not look at me so strangely, mother," said Felise. "I assure
you I am not mad, as your eyes imply. I am as sane as you are; but I
have said that Bonnibel Vere shall marry my recreant lover, and I mean
to keep my word. She has stolen him from me, and now she shall marry
him and get out of my way! Or perhaps you would prefer to keep her here
to spoil the next eligible chance I get," said Felise, looking at her
mother with burning eyes.

"I don't see how you can bring her to consent to such a thing, even if
you are in earnest, my dear."

"You have got to help me, mother. You shall tell her that you will
not allow her to refuse Colonel Carlyle--that she shall become his
wife, and that if she does not revoke her rejection, you will turn her
instantly into the street!"

"Felise, will you tell me why you are so determined upon their
marriage? I supposed you were unwilling to it--it would be only natural
for you to oppose it--but you seem as anxious for it as Colonel Carlyle
himself. Again, I ask you why?

"Mother, I told you I would take revenge upon my rival. This is a part
of my revenge. Their marriage will be the first act in the drama. Do
not ask me how I am going to proceed. Let me work out my revenge in my
own way. I owe them both a score. Never fear but I will pay it off with
interest!"

"But, Felise, you must know that Bonnibel would sooner declare her
secret marriage than be forced into another one. I can turn her into
the street if you are determined upon it; but I know I cannot make a
girl as truthful and pure as Bonnibel Vere knowingly become the wife of
two husbands."

"I fully admit your inability to do that, mother. I do not intend to
insist on your performance of impossibilities. As for Leslie Dane, look
here!"'

She straightened out a folded paper she had carried in her bosom, and
leaning forward pointed out a small paragraph to her mother.

Mrs. Arnold read the brief paragraph with starting eyes, then turned
and looked at her daughter. She no longer kept her finger between the
pages of her novel. It had slipped down upon the floor. She was getting
absorbed in this tragedy in real life.

"Is it possible?" she exclaimed. "Felise, can it be true?"

"Why not?" was the cool interrogatory. "Such things happen often--don't
they?

    "'Every minute dies a man,
      Every minute one is born.'"

"Let me see the date," Mrs. Arnold said, bending forward. "Ah! it is
very recent. Well, I _am_ surprised. But yet it is a very fortunate
occurrence, is it not? Of course it is genuine."

"Why, of course it is," said Felise, with a short, dry laugh. "How else
could it be in the paper? They don't put such things in for sport, I
suppose."

"Of course not; but it came upon me so suddenly I felt quite
incredulous at first. Well, this puts a new face upon the matter, does
it not, my dear?"

"Certainly, mother. I will show her this paper, and she cannot have
any pretext for repeating her refusal in the face of the alternative
with which you shall threaten her. I suppose any girl in her senses
would marry Colonel Carlyle and his millions rather than be turned out
homeless into the street."

She sat still a moment staring before her into futurity with lurid eyes
that saw her revenge already, and curling lips that began to taste its
sweetness in anticipation.

"When must I tell her, Felise?" inquired Mrs. Arnold.

"To-morrow, mother. There is no use in delaying matters. Let us bring
the marriage about as speedily as possible. You will tell her to-morrow
what she has to do, and I will be on hand with the paper."

She rose slowly.

"Well, I will go, and leave you to finish your novel," she said; "but
if you take my advice you will retire instead. It is growing late.
Good-night."

"Good-night, my love, and pleasant dreams," her mother answered.

She went out as quietly as she had entered, her dark hair flying wildly
over her shoulders and her white robes trailing noiselessly after her.
She was twisting her hands together, and again Mrs. Arnold thought of
Lady Macbeth washing her hands and crying in her sleep, "Out, damned
spot!"

Ah, Felise Herbert! There was a stain on your soul as red as that on
Lady Macbeth's hand!



CHAPTER XV.


The morning after the rejection of Colonel Carlyle, Bonnibel Vere sat
alone in a pleasant little morning-room that was thrown out from the
main residence as a wing. It was daintily furnished in blue plush and
walnut, and had double glass doors that looked out upon a lovely little
garden that in this pleasant May season was glowing with bloom and
fragrance.

Bonnibel had been trying to read, but in the perturbed state of her
mind she could not fix her attention upon the book. It had fallen from
her lap upon the floor, and as she sat in the luxurious arm-chair she
leaned forward with her little chin buried in one pink palm and her
blue eyes gazing into vacancy, as if lost in thought.

She looked very fair and sweet sitting there in a cool, white
morning-dress, trimmed in lace and dotted about with several bows of
black ribbon. Her beautiful hair, which was growing long and thick
again, fell upon her shoulders in loose curls, like glints of sunshine.

She had broken a spray of white hyacinth and pinned it on her bosom,
and she looked as pure and sweet as the flower itself.

"I am very sorry," she was thinking to herself, "that I was so
unfortunate as to win Colonel Carlyle's affection. I certainly never
dreamed of such a thing, and a year ago I should have laughed in the
face of any old man who dared propose to me, and have told him I did
not wish to marry my grandfather. Heigh-ho! I have grown graver now,
and do not turn everything into a jest as I did then. Still, I wish
it had not happened. I liked him simply as my father's friend, and I
thought he liked me just as papa's daughter."

She sighed heavily.

"I think I understand some things now that have puzzled me all the
winter," she mused. "He was Felise's lover when I first came, and I
have unconsciously rivaled her. She hates me for it, and Aunt Arnold
hates me, too. Ah! if they knew all that I knew they need not be
afraid. Felise is welcome to him, and I will try to induce him to
return to her. I never thought that Colonel Carlyle could have acted so
basely toward her, as it seems he has----"

Mrs. Arnold's sudden entrance into the room interrupted her
meditations. She looked so angry and overbearing that Bonnibel rose and
was about leaving the room when she was recalled abruptly.

"Stay, Bonnibel; I wish to speak with you. Resume your seat, if you
please."

Flushing with resentment at the insolent authority of the tone,
Bonnibel turned and faced the lady with a gleam of pride shining in her
blue eyes.

"Pardon me," she answered, coldly. "I will hear what you have to say
standing."

"As you please," said Mrs. Arnold, with a sneer. "Perhaps your strength
may not stand the ordeal, however."

Bonnibel stared at her in silent surprise.

"You have refused an offer of marriage from Colonel Carlyle," said Mrs.
Arnold in a tone of deep displeasure.

Bonnibel's fair cheeks deepened their color ever so slightly.

"Yes, madam, I have," she answered after a moment's thought. "But I am
ignorant of the means by which you became cognizant of the fact."

"It does not matter," Mrs. Arnold replied, flushing to a dark red under
the clear pure eyes bent upon her. "Perhaps he told me himself. One
would think that even so elderly a lover would consult a young lady's
guardian and protector before addressing her! But no matter how I came
by my information, you admit its truth."

"Certainly, madam," Bonnibel answered quietly, but wondering within
herself what all this fencing meant. She was growing slightly nervous.
The fair hands trembled slightly as they hung lightly clasped before
her, and the white and red rose triumphed alternately in her cheek.

Mrs. Arnold stood resting her folded arms on the back of a chair,
regarding the lovely young creature as if she had been a culprit before
the bar of justice.

"May I ask what were your reasons for declining the honor Colonel
Carlyle offered you?" she inquired in measured tones.

Bonnibel was half-tempted to deny Mrs. Arnold's right to ask such
a question. With an effort she fought down the quick impulse,
and answered in a voice as gentle as the other's was rude and
self-assertive:

"I did not love him, Aunt Arnold!"

"Love! Love!" sneered the widow contemptuously. "What had _love_ to do
with the matter? You, a poor, penniless, dependent creature, to prate
of love when such a man as Colonel Carlyle lays his millions at your
feet! You should have jumped at the chance and thanked him for his
condescension!"

The listener regarded her with horror and amazement. Her delicate lips
quivered with feeling, and her eyes were misty with unshed tears.

"Surely, Aunt Arnold," she said, questioningly, "you would not have had
me accept Colonel Carlyle simply for his gold?"

"Yes, I would, though," answered Mrs. Arnold roughly, "and what is
more, I intend that you _shall_ accept him, Bonnibel Vere! Girl, you
must have been mad to dream of refusing such a splendid offer. When
Colonel Carlyle returns for his final answer you will tell him that
your first refusal was only a girlish freak of coquetry, to try his
love, and that you accept his offer gratefully."

Bonnibel's cheeks turned as white as her dress, a mist rose before her
eyes, shutting out the sight of her aunt's angry face.

She staggered and put out her hand to steady herself by a chair. Mrs.
Arnold regarded her with an air of cold insolence.

"I thought you would find it rather beyond your strength to stand
before our conversation was over," she remarked, with slight sarcasm.

Bonnibel did not seem to hear the last shaft of malice. She answered
the preceding words in a voice that she strove to render steady and
controlled.

"I cannot recognize your right to dictate to me in a matter that
concerns myself alone, madam."

Mrs. Arnold listened to the proud, calm tones in furious wrath.

"You defy my authority? You refuse to obey me?" she broke out angrily.

"Your violence leaves me no other alternative, Aunt Arnold," said the
young girl, trying hard to speak calmly. "I do not wish to marry yet,
and the man whom you wish me to accept as a husband, could never be the
choice of my heart. I cannot understand why you should wish to force me
into a marriage so unsuitable."

The graceful, womanly dignity of the young girl's words and manner made
no impression on the coarse woman's nature. She only saw before her the
girl she had hated ever since her innocent babyhood, the girl whose
peerless beauty had come between Felise and her brilliant prospects.
She broke out in a passionate resentment:

"Because I want to be rid of you, girl! You have been a tumbling-block
in my path your whole life, and I hate the very sight of your
baby-face! But I took pity on you and cared for you when poverty came
upon you. In return for my kindness you stole my daughter's lover! Now
you shall marry him and get out of her way. It is the only reparation
you can make her. Do you think I will allow you to refuse Colonel
Carlyle, and remain here to cheat her out of the next eligible chance
that offers? Never!"

It was hard work for the listener to be so fiercely assailed by
this woman and not break out into the angry remonstrances that were
swelling in her heart. But Bonnibel had learned the difficult art
of self-control lately. She reflected to herself that it was but
natural that Mrs. Arnold should feel sore over the disappointment and
humiliation of her clever, handsome daughter.

"I am very sorry to hear that you hate me so much," she said, a little
sadly. "I have had no one to love me since Uncle Francis died, and I
hoped I might win a little place in his wife's heart. But you wrong me,
indeed, in charging me with stealing Felise's lover. I never dreamed
of winning him away from her; I was deceived by his interest in me,
thinking it was simply because he had been a friend and comrade of my
dear papa. I might have known better, you say. Perhaps I might, but I
was blinded by private troubles of my own, and scarcely heeded what
went on around me. I am very sorry I have been the innocent cause of
pain to Felise."

"Spare her the additional mortification of your sympathy," was the
ironical answer. "I think she can bear the old dotard's desertion.
She does not desire your regrets, and I believe I have named the only
reparation possible for you."

"And that?" said the girl, slowly.

"Is to marry Colonel Carlyle and get out of her way," was the harsh
reply.

"I cannot do that," said Bonnibel, hurriedly. "It is impossible for me
to marry Colonel Carlyle--there are many reasons why I should not. As
to the other, I will----"

She was about to add, "I will go away from here," but a sickening
thought flashed across her. _Where_ could she go?

She had no relative to fly to in her trouble. She did not know how to
work and take care of herself. She had never learned anything useful,
and her education had been mostly limited to those showy, superficial
accomplishments in vogue in the fashionable world. She had five hundred
fashionable friends, but not one to whom she could turn for comfort in
this her dark hour.

"You say you cannot marry Colonel Carlyle," said Mrs. Arnold, breaking
in on her troubled silence. "Listen to the only alternative that is
left you. I give you until he returns for his answer to decide in. If
you do not then accept him you shall no longer have the shelter of my
roof. Yes, in the very hour that you refuse Carlyle's millions, I will
turn you out homeless into the streets!"

Into the streets! How the words grated on the girl's horrified hearing.
She had seen them take up a dead girl from the street once, a girl as
young and fair almost as herself.

They said she had poisoned herself because she had no home. They took
her away to the Morgue, but Bonnibel had never forgotten that fair,
still face as it lay cold in death.

She recalled it now with a shiver. Some one had turned the poor girl
into the streets to die. Would that be her fate?

A deadly weakness stole over her. She dropped into a chair like one
shot, and Mrs. Arnold as she stood near her could hear the loud, wild
beating of her heart. Her little white hands trembled, and her cheeks
and lips turned white as marble.

"Aunt Arnold," she said, looking up at the cruel, relentless woman,
"you would not do that, surely? I should have nowhere to go, and I
am so terribly afraid of the night and the darkness in the dreadful
streets of the city!"

"No matter," sneered the listener. "You can go to one of the finest
houses in the city if you like, and have every luxury that wealth can
command--but if you refuse that, out you go from under the shelter of
this roof!"

There was the sound of some one singing in the flower-garden outside.

It was Felise. She came in with one handful of roses, while the other
held a newspaper which she was studying with a thoughtful brow.

"Bonnibel," she said, abruptly, "do you recollect that young artist,
Leslie Dane, who used to visit at Sea View last summer?"

A wave of color drifted into the girl's white cheek. She looked up
quickly into the thoughtful face of Felise.

"Yes," she answered, "what of him, Felise?"

"Did he not go to Rome to study painting?" inquired the artful girl.

"That was his intention, I believe," said Bonnibel, wondering what was
coming now.

"I thought so. There can be no mistake, then--poor fellow! Look here,
Bonnibel."

She put the paper she carried into the young girl's hand, and touched
her taper finger to a marked paragraph.

Bonnibel's eyes followed the jeweled finger and read the few lines with
staring gaze, mutely conscious of the overpowering scent of the roses
that Felise carried in her hand.

Ever afterward Bonnibel associated roses with the thought of death.

"Died on the 10th of April, at Rome, Italy, of malarial fever, Leslie
Dane, in the 24th year of his age. Mr. Dane was an artist and a native
of the United States of America. _Requiescat in pace._"



CHAPTER XVI.


Felise was prepared to see her rival fall fainting at her feet.

She expected nothing less from the shock to the girl's already
overwrought feelings, and in anticipation she already gloated over the
sight of her sufferings.

But she was mistaken. Bonnibel neither screamed nor fainted. She sat
like one dazed for a moment, her blue eyes riveted to the paper, and
her face growing white as death, while the two women who hated her
watched her with looks of triumph.

The next instant, with a bound like that of a wounded fawn seeking some
leafy covert in which to die, she sprang from her seat and rushed from
the room, clenching the fatal paper in her hand.

They could hear her light feet flying along the hall and up the stairs
to her own especial apartments.

The two wicked women looked at each other blankly.

"I did not expect her to take it that way," said Mrs. Arnold.

"Nor I," returned Felise. "I looked for a fainting spell, or some kind
of a tragic scene at least."

"Perhaps she does not care much after all," suggested Mrs. Arnold. "She
is young, and the young are proverbially fickle. She may have ceased to
love him."

"No, she has not. I am confident of that, mother. Her face looked
dreadful when she went out. She is too proud to let us see how she is
wounded--that is all. She turned as white as a dead woman while she was
reading, and there was a hunted, desperate look in her eyes. Depend
upon it she is terribly stricken."

"Do you think she will consent to marry Colonel Carlyle now, Felise?"

"I rather think she will after the awful alternative you placed before
her."

"Did you hear our conversation, my dear?"

"Every word of it, mother. I must say you sustained your part
splendidly. I feared you would not display sufficient firmness, but you
came off with flying colors."

Mrs. Arnold smiled. She was well-pleased at her daughter's praise, for
though her life was devoted to the service of Felise, this scheming
girl seldom gave her a word or smile of commendation. She answered
quickly:

"I am glad you were pleased, my love. I tried to be as positive as you
wished me to be. I fancied I heard you under the window once."

"I was there," said Felise, with a laugh.

"She was very much shocked when I threatened to turn her out of doors,"
said Mrs. Arnold. "She looked at me quite wildly."

"She will be more shocked when she finds you meant every word, for,
mother, if she does not accept Colonel Carlyle, you shall certainly
drive her away!" exclaimed Felise, and a wild and lurid gleam of hatred
fired her eyes as she spoke, that boded evil to the fair and innocent
girl upon whom she had sworn to take a terrible revenge.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bonnibel flew up the stairs to her own room, still clenching the fatal
paper tightly in her hand, and locking her door, threw herself downward
upon the carpet and lay there like one dead.

She had not fainted. Every nerve was keenly alive and quivering with
pain. Her heart was beating in great, suffocating throbs, her throat
felt stiff and choked as if compressed by an iron hand, and her head
ached terribly as if someone had hurled a heavy stone upon it.

Her whole being seemed to be but one great pulse of intense agony,
yet she lay still and moveless, save that now and then a convulsive
clutch of the small hand pressed to her throat showed that life still
inhabited that beautiful frame.

Life! The thought came to her suddenly and painfully. She raised
herself slowly and heavily, as if the weight of her sorrow crushed
her down to earth, and the full realization of the terrible change
broke over her. Leslie Dane was _dead_. That graceful form, that
handsome face was hidden beneath the damp earth mould. The dark eyes
of her artist husband would never shine down upon her again with the
love-light beaming in them, those lips whose smiles she had loved so
well would never press hers again as they had done that night when he
had blessed her and called her his wife. But _she_--she was a living,
agonized creature, the plaything of fate--oh, God! she thought,
clasping her hands together wildly, oh, God! that she were dead and
lying in the grave with the loved one she would never see again. She
felt in all its passionate intensity the force of another's heart-wrung
utterance.

    "Dead, dead!" she moaned.
    "Oh, God! since _he_ could die,
    The world's a grave, and hope lies buried there."

Ah! Bonnibel, sweet Bonnibel! It is a dark world indeed on which your
tearful gaze looks forth! It has been the grave of hope to many, yet
destiny pushes us forward blindly, and we cannot stay her juggernaut
wheels as they roll over our hearts.

"I am eighteen years old, and I am a _widow_," she moans at last, and
staggers blindly to her feet, pushing back the fair locks from her brow
with shaking hands. "_I am a widow!_"

Oh! the pathos of the words! As she speaks them she draws the blinds,
drops the curtains, and the room is shrouded in darkness. She has shut
out the world from the sight of suffering. You and I, my reader, will
turn aside, too, from the contemplation of that cruelly tried young
heart as it fights the battle in the gloom and silence.

    "Who breathes must suffer; and who thinks must mourn;
     And he alone is blessed who ne'er was born."

       *       *       *       *       *

Six days later Colonel Carlyle was ushered into Mrs. Arnold's
drawing-room and sent up his card to Miss Vere.

After a slight delay she came gliding in, pale and pure as a snow-drop,
and demure as a little nun. Colonel Carlyle both felt and saw that some
subtle and indefinable change had come over her as he bowed over the
cold, white hand she placed in his.

It was a very warm day, even for May; but she was clothed from head to
foot in heavy mourning draped with crape. Her golden hair was brushed
straight back from her temples and gathered into a simple coil fastened
with a comb of jet. From that somber setting her fair face and bright
hair shone like a star.

"You are pale, Bonnibel; I trust you have not been ill," exclaimed the
ancient suitor anxiously.

"I am as well as usual," she answered, with a slight, cold smile.

They sat down, and the ardent lover at once plunged into the subject
nearest his heart.

"Bonnibel, I have come for my answer, you know," he said. "I hope and
trust it may be a favorable one."

The girl's sweeping lashes lifted a moment from her pale cheeks, and
her blue eyes regarded him sadly; but she did not speak. He bent down
and lifted her white, listless hand in his and held it fondly.

"My dear, shall it be yes?" he inquired. "Will you give me this
precious little treasure?"

Bonnibel looked down at the hand that lay in the colonel's--it was the
one which wore the opal ring--that beautiful, changeful gem. Its colors
were dim and pale to-day. She shivered slightly, as if with cold.

"Colonel Carlyle, I told you when we spoke of this before that I did
not love you," she said, faintly.

The colonel did not appear to be disheartened by this plaintive plea.

"At least you do not hate me, Bonnibel," he said, half questioningly.

"Oh, no," she answered quickly; "I like you very much, Colonel Carlyle.
You have been so very kind to me, you know--but it is only the liking
one has for a friend--it is in no way akin to love."

"I will try to be contented with just your friendly liking, my dear
one, if you will give yourself to me," he answered, eagerly.

"I believe I could give you a daughter's affection, but never that of a
wife," she murmured.

He did not in the least understand the swift, appealing look of the
eyes that were raised a moment to his own. A swift thought had rushed
over her and she had given it words:

"Oh, that he would adopt me for his daughter and save me from either
of those two alternatives that lie before me," she thought, wildly.
"He might do so for papa's sake, and I would make him a very devoted
daughter!"

But the sighing lover did not want a daughter--he was after a wife.

"I will take you even on those terms," he replied. "Let me give you the
shelter of my name, and we will see if I cannot soon win a warmer place
in your heart."

She shook her head and a heavy sigh drifted across her lips.

"Do not deceive yourself, Colonel Carlyle," she said. "My heart is
dead. I shall never love any one."

"I will risk all that," he answered. "Only say yes, most peerless of
women, and so that I call you mine I will risk all else!"

"Do you mean it?" she asked, earnestly. "The hand without the
heart--would that content you?"

"Yes," he answered, bent on attaining his end, and foolishly believing
that he could teach her to love him. "Yes; am I to have it, Bonnibel?"

"It shall be as you wish," she answered, quietly, and leaning slightly
forward she laid in his the hand she had withdrawn a while ago.

Colonel Carlyle was beside himself with rapture.

"A thousand thanks, my beautiful darling," he exclaimed, pressing
passionate kisses on the small hand. "Nay, do not take it away so soon,
my love. Let me first place on it the pledge of our betrothal."

Still and white as marble sat Bonnibel while the enraptured colonel
slipped over her taper forefinger a magnificent diamond ring, costly
enough for a queen to wear. Its brilliant stone flashed fire, and the
opal on her third finger seemed to grow dull and cold.

       *       *       *       *       *

So Bonnibel had made her choice.

Her nature was tender, refined, luxurious. She was afraid of poverty
and cold, and darkness; yet if Leslie Dane had lived she would have
faced them all rather than have chosen Mrs. Arnold's alternative.

But Leslie Dane was dead. Life was over and done for her. There was
nothing to do but to die or forget. Death would have come soon enough
in the streets, perhaps, but she was _so_ afraid of such a death. So
she took "the goods the gods provided," and blindly threw herself
forward into the whirling vortex of fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not to be expected that Colonel Carlyle would be willing to
defer his happiness. He was well-stricken in years, and had no time to
spare in idle waiting. He therefore pressed Bonnibel to name an early
day for the wedding.

She had no choice in the matter, and allowed him to name the day
himself.

Armed with her permission, he consulted Mrs. Arnold in regard to the
earliest possible date for his happiness.

Mrs. Arnold, tutored by Felise, was all smiling graciousness, and
fully appreciated his eagerness. She thought it quite possible that a
suitable and elegant _trousseau_ might be provided for a wedding on the
twenty-fifth of June.



CHAPTER XVII.


Bonnibel's wedding-day dawned cloudless, fair and beautiful. The sun
shone, the flowers bloomed, the birds sang. Nothing was wanting to
complete the charm of the day.

Nothing? Ah! yes. The most important thing of all--the light and happy
heart that should beat in the breast of a bride was lacking there.

She was beautiful "in gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls," but she
looked like a statue carved in marble. No warmth or color tinged the
strange pallor of her face and lips, no light of love shone in the
violet eyes that drooped beneath the sweeping lashes. She spoke and
moved like a soundless automaton.

Bonnibel had pleaded for a private marriage, but Colonel Carlyle had
set his heart on a marriage at church, with all the paraphernalia of a
fashionable wedding. He wanted to show the whole world what a peerless
prize he was winning. He had urged the point with the persistency
and almost obstinacy that is characteristic of age, and Bonnibel had
yielded recklessly. She told herself that it did not matter what they
did with her. Her heart was broken and her life was ruined.

She was not in a position to dictate terms. Wretched, dejected,
friendless; what mattered this crowning humiliation of being decked in
satin and pearls and orange flowers, and paraded before all eyes as a
beautiful slave that an old man had bought with his gold.

Well, it was over. She had gone to the church with him, the wide
portals had opened to receive her, the wedding march had pealed over
her head, the beautiful bridesmaids had gone with her to the altar in
their gala dresses, and carrying little baskets of flowers on their
arms, and she had spoken the words that made her the bride of Colonel
Carlyle. The fashionable world had flocked to witness the pageant, and
nodded approval and congratulated both. And _now_?

Now the wedding breakfast was over, the "dear five hundred friends" had
departed, and Mrs. Carlyle stood arrayed in her traveling dress.

Long Branch was to be the first destination of the wedded pair--they
had made no further arrangements yet. Mrs. Arnold and Felise had
promised to join them there in a few days by the groom's express
invitation.

Felise had behaved so decorously after being thrown overboard by
her fickle suitor that the colonel felt that it behooved him to show
his appreciation of her conduct by every delicate attention that was
possible under the circumstances.

He had, therefore, insisted on their company at Long Branch while he
and the bride remained there, and the two ladies had promised to join
them there in a day or two at farthest.

Nothing but the coldest civilities had passed between the outraged
Bonnibel and the mother and daughter since the day when Mrs. Arnold had
cruelly insulted and threatened the helpless girl.

Bonnibel had kept her room almost entirely after that day, acquainting
her uncle's wife with her acceptance of Colonel Carlyle by a brief note
sent by Lucy, though she might have spared herself the trouble, for
Mrs. Arnold and her daughter had both been witnesses of the colonel's
happiness.

The bride-elect had been threatened by an avalanche of milliners and
dressmakers at first, but she had resolutely declined to have anything
to do with the details of her bridal outfit.

She had suffered a fashionable _modiste_ to take her measure once, and
after that Mrs. Arnold was forced to give her _carte blanche_ in the
whole matter of taste, expense and arrangement. Bonnibel would dictate
nothing in the preparation of those hated garments in which she was to
be sacrificed.

It was all over now. She stood in the hallway of the splendid home
that had sheltered her childhood, waiting for the carriage that would
bear her away on her honey-moon trip. She was leaving that dear home
forever; a quick tear sprang to her eyes as the servants crowded around
her with their humble, sorrowful adieux.

Lucy was to go with her, but the others, many of whom had been valued
domestics in the house for years, she might never see again.

They all loved her, and their farewells and good wishes were the most
fervent and heart-felt she had ever received.

Colonel Carlyle, though a little impatient, was pleased at these humble
manifestations and distributed gratuities among them with a liberal
hand. He wondered a little at the tears that crowded into the blue eyes
of his girl-wife. He did not know that she was thinking of the dear
uncle with whom she had spent so many hours beneath this roof. Ah,
those happy days! How far they lay behind her now in the green land of
memory!

"Come, dearest," he said, drawing her small hand through his arm and
leading her away, "you must not dim those bright eyes with tears."

He led her down the steps, placed her in the carriage that was gay with
wedding favors, and Mrs. Arnold and Felise airily kissed the tips of
their fingers to them. Janet threw an old slipper after the carriage
for good luck, and then Bonnibel was whirled away to the new life that
lay before her.

"I came very near being the bride in that carriage myself," said
Felise, turning away from the drawing-room window. "But 'there's many a
slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.'"

The tone was light, almost laughing; but Mrs. Arnold, turning to look
at her, read a different story in her eyes.

The slighted beauty looked very fair and handsome to-day. She had been
the first bridesmaid, and her dress rivaled that of the bride itself
for richness and elegance.

It was a creamy satin, heavily embroidered with pearl beads and draped
with rich lace, caught up here and there with deep-hearted yellow
roses. Her glossy black hair was adorned with the same flowers, and a
necklace of sparkling topaz made a circlet of pale flame around her
white throat. A dainty little basket of yellow roses had hung upon her
arm, but she had thrown it down now and stood trampling the senseless
flowers with fury in her eyes.

"My dear!" exclaimed the mother, in some trepidation.

"Don't 'my dear' me," Felise answered, furiously. "I am not in a mood
to be cajoled."

She began to pace the floor impatiently, her rich dress rustling over
the floor, her white hands busy tearing the roses from about her and
throwing them down as if she hated the beautiful things whose crushed
petals sent out a rich perfume as if in faint protest against her
cruelty. There was a wild glare akin to that of madness in her dark
eyes.

"'Hell has no fury like a woman scorned!'" she said, repeating the
words of the great poet. "Oh, mother, how I hate Colonel Carlyle and
his wife! I seem to live but for revenge."

"Felise, you frighten me with your looks and words," Mrs. Arnold said,
a little anxiously. "You seem like one on the verge of madness."

"I am," she said, stopping in her hurried walk a moment, and laughing a
low, blood-curdling laugh, "but never fear, mother, 'there is method in
my madness!'"

"I wish you would give up this scheme of revenge," pursued the mother,
anxiously. "I hate them as much as you do, I know, but then we have
got rid of the girl, and the misery she feels as the wife of a man she
cannot love is a very fair revenge upon her. Remember we have despoiled
her of everything, Felise, and given her over to a life that will make
her wretched. Is not that enough?"

"No, it is not!" exclaimed her daughter, in low, concentrated tones,
full of deep passion. "But, mother, what has changed you so? You used
to be as vindictive as a tigress--now you plead with me to forego my
revenge."

"Because I am afraid for you, my dear," Mrs. Arnold answered in
troubled tones. "I fear that your mind will give way under this
dreadful strain. I have never told you, Felise, but I will do so now
that you may guard yourself against yourself. _There was a taint of
madness_ in your father's family, and when I see you brooding, brooding
over your revenge, I am afraid, afraid!"

The excited creature only laughed more wildly as she continued her walk.

"Felise," the mother continued, "we have wealth, power, position, and
you are beautiful. We can make life a long summer day of pleasure. Let
us do so, and throw every vexing care to the winds."

"Mother, I cannot do it," Felise exclaimed. "I have been cruelly
humiliated in the eyes of world--everyone expected Colonel Carlyle to
marry me--do you think I will tamely bear their sneers and contempt?
No; the man who has brought such odium upon me shall bitterly rue the
day he first looked upon the siren face of Bonnibel Vere!"

"My love, do you remember the prediction of Wild Madge the sibyl? She
said 'you would have everything and lose everything, because the gods
had made you mad.'"

"Who cares for the predictions of that crazy old witch? What can she
know of the future? I wish she were dead and out of the way!" exclaimed
the angry girl, clenching her small white hands impotently together.
"Mother, have done with your warnings and pleadings. I will not have
them! You seem to be undergoing a softening process of the heart and
brain--perhaps both," and with a mocking laugh she swept from the
apartment.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Among all the radiant beauties that promenaded the beach and danced
in the ball rooms at Long Branch, the young bride of Colonel Carlyle
became immediately distinguished for her pre-eminent loveliness.

Wherever she went she created a great sensation.

People went to the places where they heard she would be, just to look
at that "faultily faultless" face "star-sweet on a gloom profound."

Artists raved over her form and features. They said she was the fairest
woman in the world, and that her beauty had but one fault--it was too
cold and pale. One touch of glow and color in that "passionless, pale,
cold face," they said, would have made her so lovely that men would
have gone mad for her--gone mad or died.

And then she was so young, they said. She had never been presented in
society. Colonel Carlyle, the cunning old fox, had married her out of
the schoolroom before anyone had a chance to see her. The fops and
dandies swore at him behind their waxed mustaches, while better and
nobler men said it was a shame that such a fair, charming girl should
be wedded to such an old man.

There were some who said that the girl, young as she was, had a hidden
heart-history. These were the poets and dreamers. They said that the
language of those pale cheeks and drooping eyes was that she had been
torn from her handsome lover's side and bartered for an old man's gold.

But these were mere conjectures. No one knew anything about her
certainly, until Mrs. Arnold and Felise came down after a week's delay.
Then they knew that she was the daughter of General Vere, and the niece
of Francis Arnold, the murdered millionaire.

Felise told them of the artist lover who had murdered the millionaire
because he would not give him his niece. The excitement only ran higher
than before, and people looked at the young creature with even more
curiosity and interest than ever.

Bonnibel could not help seeing that she was an object of interest and
admiration to everyone about her. She saw that the men sought her
side eagerly and often, and that the women were jealous of her. At
first she was vexed and angry about it. She could not get a moment to
herself. They were always seeking her out, always hovering about her
like butterflies round a flower. She wondered why they came round her
so, but at length she remembered what she had almost forgotten. Uncle
Francis had often told her so; Leslie Dane had told her so; she had
heard it from others, too, and even Wild Madge had admitted it.

Ah! Wild Madge! Over her memory rushed the words of the fearful old
hag, freighted with a deeper meaning than they had held at first.

"You are beautiful, but your beauty will be your bane." "Years of
sorrow lie before you!" "You will be a young man's bride, but an old
man's darling!"

"It has all come true," she thought, turning from the circle around
her, and looking wistfully out over the waves that came swelling
against the shore, like some wild heart beating against the bars of
life. "It has all come true--yet how little I dreamed that she could
read the future that lies folded, like the leaves of a book, from first
sight. How little I thought that a shadow could ever fall between me
and happiness! Yet in a few short months her wild prediction has been
fulfilled. I have drank deeply of sorrow's cup. I have been a young
man's bride; now they say I am an old man's darling. All--all has been
fulfilled save the shame and disgrace with which she threatened me. But
that can never come, never, _never_!" and a look of pride came over the
fair face, and the round throat was curved defiantly.

Colonel Carlyle was quite happy and proud at first over the sensation
created by his beautiful girl-wife. He liked to see how much people
admired her. It pleased him to note the admiring glances that followed
her slightest movement.

She belonged to him, and all the admiration she excited was a tribute
to his taste and his pride.

For a whole week he was as pleased and happy as a man could be, but
a shadow fell upon him with the coming of Felise. He grew morbidly
jealous.

Jealous, and without a shadow of reason, for Bonnibel was like the
chaste and lovely moon--she shone coldly and alike upon all.

But the colonel became a changed man--everyone noticed it, and many
said that the old man was growing jealous of his beautiful darling.

But no one could tell how it came about, not even Felise Herbert, who,
when questioned by her mother, refused to admit that the faintest, most
insidious hint from her lips had been dropped like poison into the
cup of perfect happiness from which the doting old husband was fondly
drinking.

One morning a note lay on his dressing-table--a little note scrawled
in a disguised hand--he took it up and read it, then put it down again
and stood gazing blankly at it as if it were the death-warrant of his
happiness. It was very short, but every word was stamped indelibly on
his memory.

"Your wife," it ran, "wears a little opal ring on the third finger of
her right hand. She prizes it more than all the costly jewels you have
lavished upon her. It was the gift of a former lover whom she still
adores. Ask her to cease wearing the ring, or even to show you the
inscription inside, and you will see who has the warmest place in her
heart."

Could this be true? Was this a friend who warned him, he thought. He
remembered the pretty little ring perfectly.

The jealous pang that had been tearing at his heart for days grew
sharper than ever.

He knew his wife did not love him yet, but he had fondly hoped to win
her heart in time.

If what the writer of that anonymous letter said was true, then it was
vain to hope any longer.

"A former lover whom she still adored." Oh! God, could that be true?

"I will test her," he said to himself. "No one shall poison my mind
against my beautiful wife without a cause. 'I will put it to the test
and win or lose it all.'"

He went to a jeweler's that morning and came back with a little box in
his vest-pocket.

Then he asked Bonnibel if she would walk down to the seashore with him.

She complied with a gentle smile, and he found her a shady seat a
little off from the crowd, where they could talk uninterrupted.

She laid down her parasol, and removing her delicate gloves folded her
white hands listlessly together.

Colonel Carlyle took up the hand that wore the opal ring and looked at
it fondly.

"My dear," he said, "that is a very pretty ring you wear, but it is
not beautiful enough for your perfect hand. I have brought you a much
handsomer one with which to replace it."

He took it from his pocket and showed it to her--a lovely, shimmering
opal set round with gleaming pearls.

"I have heard that opals are unlucky stones," he said, "but if you are
not superstitious, and like to wear them, will you lay aside the simple
one you now have and put this on instead?" and he made a movement as if
he would withdraw the tabooed one from her finger.

Bonnibel withdrew her hand quickly, and looked up into Colonel
Carlyle's face.

He saw her delicate lips quiver, and a dimness creep over her eyes,
while her cheeks grew, if anything, paler than ever. Her voice trembled
slightly as she answered:

"I thank you for your beautiful gift; but I cannot consent to wear it
in the place of the plainer one I now have."

"And why not, my dear little wife? It would look much handsomer than
the one you now wear on your finger."

A faint flush tinged her snow-white cheek at the half-sarcastic
emphasis of his words. Her glance wandered off to the sunlit sea and a
tear rolled down her check as she said, very gently:

"I am quite aware of that, Colonel Carlyle. Your ring is a marvel of
beauty and taste, and I will wear it on another finger if you like;
but I prize the other more for its associations than for its beauty or
value. It was a keepsake from a friend. You remember the pretty words
of the old song:

    "'Who has not kept some trifling thing,
        More prized than jewels rare,
      A faded flower, a broken ring,
        A tress of golden hair?'"

There was a tone of unconscious pleading in her pathetic voice, and the
heart of the jealous old husband gave a throb of pain as he listened.

"It is true, then," he thought to himself. "It was a gift of a former
lover."

Aloud he said rather coldly:

"Since you prize it so much as a keepsake, Bonnibel, put it away
in some secret place, and preserve it as romantic people do such
treasures--it will be safer thus."

"I prefer to wear it, sir," she answered, with a glance of surprise at
the persistency.

"But I do not wish you to wear it. I particularly desire that you
should lay it aside and wear the one I have brought you instead," he
insisted, rather sharply goaded on by jealousy and dread.

Bonnibel turned her eyes away from the blue waves of the ocean and
looked curiously at her husband. She saw that he was in desperate
earnest. His dark eyes flashed with almost the fire of youth, and his
features worked with some inward emotion she did not in the least
understand.

"I am sorry to refuse your request, sir," she answered, a little
gravely; "though I am surprised that you should insist upon it when I
have plainly expressed a contrary wish. I can only repeat what I have
said before, that I prefer to wear it."

"Against my wishes, Bonnibel?"'

"I hope that you will not further oppose it, sir, on the ground of a
mere caprice," she answered, flushing warmly. "It was the gift of a
dear friend, who is dead, and I shall always wear it in remembrance."

"The gift of a former lover, perhaps," sneered Colonel Carlyle, half
beside himself with jealousy.

"I suppose it cannot matter to you, Colonel Carlyle, who the giver may
have been," exclaimed Bonnibel, offended at his overbearing tone, and
flushing indignantly.

"Pardon me, but it does matter, Bonnibel. I dislike exceedingly to see
my wife wearing the ring of one whom she loves better than her husband!
Common regard for my feelings should induce you to lay it aside without
forcing me to issue a command to that effect!"

His jealous pain or innate tyranny was fast getting the better of
his prudence, or he would scarcely have taken such a tone with the
young wife whose heart he so ardently longed to win. She sprang
up impetuously and looked down at him with the fires of awakened
resentment burning hotly upon her cheeks, looking beautiful with the
glow and warmth of passion in the face that had been too cold and pale
before. The same proud spirit that had forced her to defy her Uncle
Francis that memorable night animated her now.

"I think you will hardly dare issue such a command to me, Colonel
Carlyle. Remember that though I am your wife I am not your slave!"

How fair she looked in his eyes even as she indignantly defied his
authority! But passion had made him blind to reason and justice. With
a swift glance around to assure himself that no one was in sight, he
caught her small hand and tried to wrench the ring from her finger by
force.

"At least I will see whose hated name is written within the precious
jewel!" he exclaimed.

"Release me, this moment, Colonel Carlyle! If you dare to persevere in
such a cowardly and brutal course, I swear to you that I will never
live with you another day! Yes, I would leave you within the hour
were I twice your wife!" cried the girl, in such passionate wrath and
scorn that the colonel let go of her hand in sheer surprise at the
transformation of his dove.

"You would not dare do such a thing!" he exclaimed, vehemently.

"Would I not?" she answered, with flashing eyes. "I dare do anything!
Beware how you put me to the test!"

He stood glaring at her with rage and malignity distorting his
aristocratic features. How dared that feeble, puny girl defy him thus?

For a moment he almost hated her. A sleeping devil was aroused within
his heart.

"Bonnibel," he exclaimed, angrily, "you shall repent this hour in dust
and ashes!"

All the latent fire and scorn of the girl's passionate nature were
fanned into flame by his threatening words.

"I care nothing for your threat," she answered, haughtily. "I defy you
to do your worst! Such threats do honor to your manhood when addressed
to a weak and helpless girl! See how little I prize the gift of one who
could act in so unmanly a way."

She stooped and caught up his ring where it had fallen on the sands
in all its shining beauty. She made a step forward towards the water,
her white hand flashed in the air a moment, and the costly jewel fell
shimmering into the sea.

They stood a moment looking at each other in silence--the girl
reckless, defiant, like a young lioness at bay; the man astonished,
indignant, yet still thrilled with a sort of inexpressible admiration
of her beauty and her daring. He saw in her that moment some of the
dauntless courage of her hero-father. The same proud, untamed spirit
flashed from her glorious eyes. It flashed across him suddenly and
humiliatingly that he had been a fool to try such high-handed measures
with General Vere's daughter--he might have known that the same
unconquerable fire burned in her veins. He had seen Harry Vere go into
the battle with the same look on his face--the same flashing eye, the
same dilated nostril and disdainful lip.

He went up to her, thrilled with momentary compunction for his fault,
and took her hand in his.

"You were right, Bonnibel," he said, humbly. "I acted like a coward and
a brute. I was driven mad by jealousy. Can you forgive me, darling?"

"I accept your apology, sir," she answered, coldly; but there was
little graciousness and much pride in her manner. Her pride had been
outraged almost past forgiveness.



CHAPTER XIX.


Colonel Carlyle keeps the peace for several days. He finds that he has
overstepped the mark and that it will take careful management to regain
his lost ground in his wife's regard. Bonnibel, though she married him
without a spark of love, has yet given him a very frank and tender
regard and esteem until now. She has always thought him a perfect
gentleman, a model of courtesy and propriety, and as such she has given
him all that was left in her heart to give--the reverence and affection
of a dutiful daughter. Now, without a moment's warning, her ideal has
fallen from the proud pedestal where she had placed it--its shattered
fragments bestrewed the ground, and _she_ knows, if he does not, that
the broken image can never be restored.

He has deceived her, she tells herself bitterly, but now that he has
won her, the mask of courtliness is laid aside, and he shows the iron
hand that was hidden beneath the velvet glove.

But a few short weeks had fled, and he begins to play the tyrant
already.

Her passionate, undisciplined nature rises up in hot rebellion against
his injustice. The foolish jealousy of his old age appears very
contemptible to her youthful eyes. She does not try to excuse it to
herself. A great revulsion of feeling comes over her, chilling the
gentle growth of tenderness and gratitude in her heart. Her manner
grows cold, reserved, almost offensively haughty.

Ere this first cloud on the matrimonial horizon clears away the grand
ball of the season comes off. The gay visitors at Long Branch dance
every night, but this is to be the most brilliant affair of any--a
"full dress affair" is what the ladies call it--meaning to say that
they wear their finest dresses and costliest jewels--the gentlemen
likewise.

The night is cloudless, balmy, beautiful--such nights as we have in
the last of July when the moon is full and Heaven martials its hosts
of stars in the illimitable canopy above. The spacious ball-room is
thronged with revelers. The dreamy, passionate strains of waltz-music
float out upon the air, filling it with melody.

Standing beside a window is Colonel Carlyle, in elegant evening dress,
looking very stately and distinguished despite his seventy years.
Leaning on his arm is Felise Herbert, looking radiant in rose-colored
satin and gauze, with a diamond fillet clasping her dark hair, and
diamonds shining like dew on her bare throat and rounded arms. Smiles
dimple her red lips as she watches the animated scene about her, and
her dark eyes shine like stars. Her companion thinks that he never saw
her half so handsome before as she hangs on his arm and chatters airy
nothings in his ears.

"Look at our little Bonnibel," she says, in a tone of innocent
amusement; "is she not a demure little coquette? She looks like a
veritable snow-maiden, as cold and as pure, yet she has young Penn
inextricably prisoned in her toils, and everyone knows it--no one
better than herself."

His glance follows hers across the room to where his young wife stands
a little outside the giddy circle of waltzers, leaning on the arm of
a handsome, dreamy-looking youth, and despite the jealous pang that
thrills him at Felise's artful speech, his heart throbs with a great
love and pride at her exceeding beauty.

She looks like a snow-maiden, indeed, as her enemy says. She wears
costly white lace over her white silk, and her cheeks and brow, her
arms and shoulders are white as her dress. Colonel Carlyle's wedding
gift, a magnificent set of diamonds, adorns her royally. There is not
a flower about her, nothing but silk and laces and costly gems, yet
withal, she makes you think of a lily, she looks so white, and cold,
and pure in the whirl of rainbow hues around her.

Her companion bends toward her, speaking earnestly, yet she listens
with such apparent indifference and almost ennui that if that be
coquetry at all it can surely be characterized by no other term than
that of Felise--"demure."

"I thought that Penn's loves were all ideal ones," the colonel says,
trying to speak carelessly as he watches his wife's companion closely.
"To judge from his latest volumes of poems, the divinities of his
worship are all too ethereal to tread this lower earth."

Felise laughs significantly as her companion ceases to speak.

"Byron Penn, despite the ethereal creatures of his brain, is not proof
against mortal beauty," she says. "Remember, Colonel Carlyle, that
angels once looked down from Heaven and loved the women of earth."

"He is a graceful waltzer," her companion returns, as the young poet
circles the waist of the snow-maiden with one arm and whirls her into
the mazes of the giddy, breathless waltz.

"Very," says Felise, watching the graceful couple as they float around
the room, embodying the very poetry of motion.

She is silent a moment, then looks up into her companion's face with a
slightly curious expression.

"Pardon my question," she says, thoughtfully; "but do you quite approve
of _married_ women waltzing with other men than their husbands?"

He starts and looks at her sharply. The innocent deference and
unconsciousness of her voice and face are perfect.

"Since you ask me," he says, slowly, "I may say that upon mature
consideration I might think it was not exactly _comme il faut_. Yet
I have really never before given a second thought to the subject. It
is quite customary, you know, and it seems even more excusable in my
wife than other women, since I never waltz myself, and she would be
compelled to forego that pleasure entirely unless she shared it with
others."

"Oh, pray do not think that I have any reference to Bonnibel,"
exclaimed Felise, hurried and earnestly, "I was speaking altogether in
the abstract. Yet I fully agree with you that your wife would be more
excusable for many little errors of head and heart than most women. She
is scarcely more than a child, and has never had the proper training
to fit her for her present sphere. Her uncle was culpably indulgent
to her, and hated to force her inclination, which was very adverse to
study or application of any kind. Consequently our little Bonnibel,
though beautiful as a dream, is little more than an unformed child. She
should be in the school-room this minute."

Every word is spoken with such a pretty air of excusing and defending
the young wife's errors, and condemning her dead uncle as their cause,
that Colonel Carlyle is entirely deceived. He did not know that
Bonnibel was so neglected and unformed before, but he takes it on trust
since Felise is so confident of it, and the thought rankles bitterly in
his proud heart. But he passes over the subject in silence and returns
to the primal one.

"So you would not, as a rule, Miss Herbert, commend the practice of
married women waltzing with other men than their husbands?"

She drops her eyes with a pretty air of mingled confusion and
earnestness.

"Perhaps you will call me prudish," she says, "or perhaps I may be
actuated by the more ignoble passion of jealousy; but I have always
felt that were I a man it would be insupportable shame and agony for
me to see my wife, whom I loved and revered as a being little lower
than an angel, whirled about a common ball-room in the arms of another,
while the gaping public nodded and winked."

She saw a look of shame and pain cross his face as his eyes followed
the white figure floating round the room in the clasp of Byron Penn's
arms.

"I suppose there are not many women who feel as strongly on that
subject as you do," he says, slowly.

"Oh, dear, no, nor men either, or they would not permit their wives
such license," is the quick reply.

The waltz-music ceases with a bewildering crash of melody, and some
one comes up and claims Felise for the next german. She floats away
airily as a rose-colored cloud on her partner's arm, and leaves her
victim alone. He stands there quite silently a little, seeming lost in
troubled thought, then goes to seek his wife.

He finds her the center of an admiring circle, the young poet, Byron
Penn, conspicuous among them.

With a slight apology to his friends he offers his arm and leads her
away from the throng out to the long moonlighted piazzas.

"Shall I find you a seat or will you promenade?" he inquires politely.

"Oh! promenade, by all means," she answers a little constrainedly.

They take a few turns up and down the long piazza, Mrs. Carlyle's long
robe trailing after her with a silken "swish, swish;" she makes no
observation, does not even look at him.

Her large eyes wander away and linger upon the sea that is glorious
beyond description with the radiance of the full moon mirrored in its
deeps, and making a pathway of light across its restless waves.

She thinks vaguely that the golden streets of the celestial city must
look like that.

"I hope you are enjoying the ball?" her liege lord observes
interrogatively.

"As much as I ever enjoy anything," she returns listlessly.

"Which means----" he says, quickly, then checks himself abruptly.

She finishes his sentence with a dreary little sigh:

"That I do not enjoy anything very much!"

He looks down at her, wondering at the unusual pathos of her tone, and
sees a face to match the voice.

Moonlight they say brings out the true expression of the soul upon the
features.

If that be true then Bonnibel Carlyle bears a sad and weary soul within
her breast.

The white face looks very _spirituelle_ in the soft, mystical light,
and the delicate lips are set in a line of pain.

No man likes to see his wife unhappy. It is a reflection upon himself.
It is his first duty to secure her happiness. Colonel Carlyle is
nettled, and says, half querulously:

"I am sorry to see you _ennuyed_ where everything seems conspiring to
promote your happiness. Can I do nothing to further that end?"

Her large eyes look up at him a moment in grave surprise at his fretful
tone. Then she says to herself in apology for him:

"He is old, and I have heard that old people become irritated very
easily."

"Pray do not trouble yourself over my thoughtless words, sir," she
says, aloud. "I am tired--that is all. Perhaps I have danced too much."

"It was of that subject I wished to speak with you when I brought you
out here," he answers, abruptly. "Are you very fond of the waltz,
Bonnibel?"

"I like it quite well;" this after a moment's study. "There is
something dreamy, intoxicating, almost delightful in the music and the
motion."

A spasm of jealousy contracts his heart. He speaks quickly and with a
labored breath.

"I have never waltzed in my life, and cannot, of course, enter into the
feelings of those who have, but I can see what I am about to ask may be
a great sacrifice to you."

She glances up inquiringly into his face, but he will not meet her eyes.

"Bonnibel, I want you to give up waltzing altogether--will you do it?"
he asks, bruskly.

"Give up waltzing?" she echoes, in surprise. "Is not that a very sudden
notion, Colonel Carlyle? I did not know you harbored any objections to
the Terpsichorean art."

"I do not in the abstract," he answers, evasively. "But you will pardon
me for saying that I consider it exceedingly indelicate and improper
for a married woman to dance with any man but her husband. That is why
I have asked you to give it up for my sake."

"Do other people think the same way, sir?" she inquires timidly.

"All right-minded people do," he answers firmly, quite ignoring the
fact that he is a perfectly new proselyte to his boldly announced
conviction of the heinousness of the waltz.

Silence falls between them for a little time. They have stopped walking
and stand leaning against the piazza rails. Quite unconsciously she
has pulled a flower from his elegant _boutonniere_, and is tearing it
to pieces between her white-gloved fingers. She looks up as the last
rose-leaf is shredded away between her restless fingers and asks,
quietly:

"Would it please you very much to have me give up waltzing, sir?"

"More than words can express, my darling; are you going to make me
happy by the promise?"

"I am quite willing to please you, sir, when it is possible for me to
do so," she answers quite gently; "you have my promise."

"Bonnibel, you are an angel!" exclaims the enraptured colonel. He draws
his arm around her an instant and bends to kiss her lips. "A thousand
thanks for your generous self-sacrifice!"

"You need not thank me, sir--it is not much of a sacrifice," she
answers, dryly.

She has drawn out her programme of the dances for the evening and is
hurriedly consulting it.

"I find that I am engaged for one more waltz," she says, carelessly. "I
suppose you do not object to my dancing that? It would be embarrassing
to excuse myself."

"Your partner is--whom?" he inquires, with a slight frown.

Again she consults her programme.

"It is Mr. Penn."

"Cannot you excuse yourself? Say you are tired? Your head aches? Women
know how to invent suitable excuses always--do they not?"

"I will do as you wish, sir," she answers, in so low a voice that he
does not catch its faint inflection of scorn.

Other promenaders come out on the piazza, and one or two laughing
jests are thrown at him for keeping the "belle of the ball away from
her proper sphere."

"Perhaps I _am_ selfish," he says. "Let us return to the ball-room, my
love."

"As you please," she answers.

He leads her back and lingers by her side awhile, then it strikes him
that _les proprietes_ do not sanction a man's monopolizing his wife's
company in society. With a sigh he leaves her, and tries to make
himself agreeable to other fair women.

He has hardly left her before the band strikes up "The Beautiful Blue
Danube," and Byron Penn starts up from some remote corner, from which
he has witnessed her return to the ball-room.

"This is our waltz, is it not?" he says, with a tremor of pleasure in
his voice.

A slight flush rises over Bonnibel's cheek.

"I believe it is," she answers; "but if you will not think me very
rude, Mr. Penn, I am going to ask you to excuse me from it. I am tired
and shall dance no more this evening."

"You are very cruel," says the poet, plaintively; "but if you wish to
atone for your injustice you will walk down to the shore with me and
look at the moonlight on the sea, and hear how delicious the music
sounds down there. You can form no conception of its sweetness when
mellowed by a little distance and blent with the solemn diapason of the
waves."

"If you will go and tell my maid to bring me a shawl," she answers,
indifferently, "I will go with you for a minute."

He returns with a fleecy white wrap, and they stroll away from the
"dancers dancing in tune."



CHAPTER XX.


Colonel Carlyle soon misses his heart's fair queen from the ball-room,
and immediately the whole enchanting scene becomes a desert in
his love-lorn eyes. He glances hither and thither; he wanders
disconsolately around, yet no flitting glimpse of his snow-maiden
rewards his eager eyes. She has vanished as completely from his sight
as if a sunbeam had shone down upon and dissolved her into a mist.

"Have you seen Bonnibel anywhere?" he inquires of Felise, meeting her
on her partner's arm as he wandered around.

Felise looks up with a low, malicious laugh.

"Bonnibel?" she says. "Oh, yes; she and Byron Penn have been down on
the beach this half hour in the moonlight, composing sonnets."

Her partner laughs and hurries her on, leaving the anxious old husband
standing in the floor like one dazed. A dozen people standing around
have heard the question and its answer. They nod and wink at each
other, for Colonel Carlyle's patent jealousy has begun to make him a
laughing stock. After a moment he recollects himself and turns away.
People wonder if he will go out and confront the sentimental pair, and
a few couples, on curiosity bent, stroll out to watch his proceedings.
They are rewarded directly, for he comes out and takes his way down the
shore.

Felise's assertion of a half an hour is merely a pleasant fiction. It
has not been ten minutes since she left the house on the arm of the
young poet. They are standing on the beach looking out at the glorious
sea, and the young man whose soul is so deeply imbued with poetry that
he can think and speak of nothing else, has been telling her what a
sweet poem is "Lucille," Owen Meredith's latest. He repeats a few
lines, and the girl inclines her head and tries to be attentive.

    "O, being of beauty and bliss! seen and known
     In the depths of my heart, and possessed there alone,
     My days know thee not, and my lips name thee never,
     Thy place in my poor life is vacant forever,
     We have met, we have parted, no more is recorded
     In my annals on earth."

The pretty lines have a more attentive listener than Bonnibel. Her
husband has come up softly and unnoticed. He sees the graceful head
graciously inclined, hears the lines that Byron Penn has, unconsciously
to himself, made the vehicle for expressing his own sentiments, and his
heart quakes with fury. He strides before them, white and stern.

"Mrs. Carlyle," he says, in low, stern accents, "will you come with me?"

The young wife lifts her drooping head with a start and sees him
standing before her, wan, white and haggard, quite a different man from
the enraptured lover who had kissed and praised her but a little while
ago.

"I--oh, dear me--has anything happened, Colonel Carlyle? Are you ill?"
she falters, in her innocent unconsciousness.

"Will you come with me?" he repeats, grinding his teeth in a fury.

"Certainly," she says, thinking that something dreadful must have
happened surely, and simply saying, "You will excuse me, Mr. Penn," she
bows and turns away on her husband's arm.

The handsome young fellow looks after them blankly.

"Upon my word," he exclaims, "what a furious, uncalled-for outbreak of
jealousy! So that's what it is to be an old man's darling, is it? Truly
an enviable position for such a peerless angel."

He throws himself down on the beach, to the detriment of his immaculate
evening costume, and resigns himself to some rather melancholy musings.

Meanwhile Bonnibel, as she walks away, again asks, with sweet
unconsciousness:

"_Has_ anything happened, Colonel Carlyle?"

"Let us go to your private parlor; I will tell you there," he answers,
coldly.

Inside that safe retreat they confront each other in momentary silence,
Bonnibel anxious, troubled, and totally unconscious, Colonel Carlyle
pale with anger and wild, unreasoning jealousy, his brain on fire with
contending passions that have been seething there ever since Felise's
consummate art had been employed to torture him this evening.

"Now you will tell me?" she inquires, standing before him with
loosely-clasped hands, the fleecy drapery falling from her shoulders,
the fairest vision his eyes ever rested upon.

"Bonnibel, you surely do not pretend to be ignorant that you have given
me cause for offense?" he exclaims, hoarsely.

Her blue eyes dilate; she retreats a step with genuine surprise
depicted on her face. Then she remembered her promise about waltzing.

"Surely, there is some misunderstanding," she answers, slowly. "I
assure you, sir, that I have not waltzed any more since you asked me
not to do so."

"You have done worse, much worse!" he exclaims, passionately, "and your
affectation of innocence must certainly be feigned. No woman in her
senses could be oblivious to the fact that your open flirtation with
that silly rhymester, Byron Penn, is simply scandalous."

In his excitement he characterizes her offense in terms more forcible
than true. She is dumb with astonishment for a moment, then she walks
straight up to him, a blaze of color rushing over her face and neck,
while her eyes flash lightning scorn upon him.

"This to me!" she exclaims, her girlish voice ringing with passion
and resentment. "Such an accusation to Harry Vere's daughter! Oh! for
shame! How dare you!"

"You provoked it yourself," he answers, retreating before her, for her
little hands were clenched wildly as if she would strike him down to
earth; "I gave you my honored name to wear--a name as proud as your
father's--and you have dragged it through the mire of a moonlight
flirtation with a dandy, an idiot."

"It is false," she answers, proudly, "I never flirted in my life, I
should not know how to do it. And there was no harm in my short walk
down to the shore with Mr. Penn. No one could make harm of it except a
man blinded by jealousy!"

A glimmer of the truth had begun to dawn upon her. It angered him
bitterly to know that she had detected his weakness.

"I have been blinded by many things," he answers, furiously. "I was
blinded by your beautiful face before I married you, and could not
see that you had never received the proper training and education to
fit you for the position to which I elevated you. My eyes have been
opened by your recent conduct, and I find you simply an unformed child,
utterly ignorant how to maintain your dignity as my wife!"

Word for word he is going over the specious sophistries of Felise, but
he is utterly unconscious of the fact. He has been merely a pliant tool
in her artful hands, but he believes that he has found out all these
facts for himself, and he asserts them with a perfect conviction of
truth.

For Bonnibel stands listening in stunned silence to his vehement
rhodomontade. She has walked away from him a little way, and stands
clinging to the back of a chair, as if to save herself from falling.
The angry flush has died out of her face, and she looks marble-cold,
and white even to her lips. As he pauses, she speaks in low, resentful
accents:

"Colonel Carlyle, you are the first man who has ever offered me an
insult!"

"An insult!" he exclaims. "Do you call the truth an insult? You talk
like a child and act like a child, Bonnibel. I see no other resource
before me than to put you at school and keep you there until you
learn the necessary amenities of social life which your uncle's blind
indulgence aided and abetted you in ignoring."

"Send _me_--a married woman--to school--like a child!" she says,
staring at him blankly.

"Why not? You are quite young enough yet," he answers, moodily. "Two
years at a convent school in Paris would give you the training and
finish you lack at present."

"I assure you, sir, that my education has not been so totally neglected
as your words imply," she answers from the depths of the arm-chair into
which she has wearily fallen. "My Uncle Francis, though he loved me
too well to send me away from him to school, always provided me with
competent governesses, and if my training does not do them credit it is
my own fault, not his; so I beg that you will not needlessly reflect on
his memory."

He was silent a moment, pacing restlessly up and down the floor. An
unconscious pathos in her words had stung him into reflection. "My
Uncle Francis loved me too well to send me away from him," has touched
a responsive chord in his own heart. Her uncle had loved her like that,
yet he, her husband, bound to her by the dearest tie on earth, could
talk of sending her away from him like a naughty child that, having
disobeyed, must be punished for its fault.

"_Could_ I do it?" he asked himself, suddenly. "I love her as my own
life, though her childish follies drive me mad with jealousy. I am
growing old--could I lose her out of my life two precious years when my
span of existence may be so short? No, no, fool that I was to threaten
her so; I will retract it if I can without compromising my dignity."

He paused before her and said abruptly:

"I understand from your words then, Bonnibel, that you refuse your
consent to my proposed plan?"

To his surprise and confusion she lifted her head with a proud,
stag-like motion, and said icily:

"_Au contraire_, sir, I think well of it, and fully agree with you that
I need more training and polish to fit me for the exalted position I
occupy as your wife!"

The fine, delicate irony of her tone could not fail to strike him
keenly.

He tried to ignore it as he said in a voice that betrayed nothing of
his conflicting emotions:

"My proposed course meets with your full approval, then, madam?"

She inclines her head with stately grace.

"I cannot think of anything at present, Colonel Carlyle, that would
please me so well as a few years at a Parisian school such as you
mentioned."

"She is only too glad to have an opportunity of separating herself from
me," he thinks, bitterly; but aloud he answers coldly, "So be it; I
shall be happy to meet your wishes."



CHAPTER XXI.


It is barely midnight and the mirth and merriment are at their hight
down-stairs. Bonnibel hears the sound of

    "The violin, flute and bassoon,
     And the dancers dancing in tune."

through all her interview with Colonel Carlyle, but when it is ended
she does not return to the ball-room. She leaves him with a cold
good-night, and retires to her own room.

Lucy, her maid, starts up drowsily from her easy-chair as she enters.

"You here, Lucy?" she says. "I told you not to stay up for me. You
should not break your rest staying up night after night like this."

"Lor', Miss Bonnibel, I have had as comfortable a snooze in your
arm-chair as if I had been tucked into my bed," Lucy answers
good-naturedly. "Don't you go for to worry over me staying up. I kin
stand it if you kin."

Her mistress stands in the center of the room, her eyes shining, her
white hands tearing at the diamond necklace about her throat.

"Take it off, Lucy," she cries out impatiently. "It hurts me, it chokes
me!"

Lucy hastens to obey, but starts back as she sees the wild, white face
of the hapless girl.

"Oh, me!" she exclaims, "you look like a ghost, you are that white. Are
you sick, Miss Bonnibel? Let me get you something to take--some wine,
or something?"

"No, no, I wish nothing," she answers, impatiently. "Only undress me,
Lucy, and help me to bed. I am very tired--that is all."

She sits quite still while Lucy removes the jewels that shine about
her, the white satin slippers, the elegant dress, and brings the snowy
night-dress instead. Then as the maid kneels down and buttons the
delicate robe, Bonnibel, glancing down, sees her eyes full of tears and
her full lip quivering.

"Lucy," she says, in surprise, "what is it? What has grieved you?"

Lucy starts as if frightened at being detected.

"Forgive me, ma'am," she says; "it's for you I grieve. You are that
changed that I can't bear it! Here I have been your maid since you was
a little girl of twelve, and how happy you used to be before the master
died--now for goin' on a year I've never seen a real smile on your
face. Something troubles you all the time. Can't I help you? Can't I do
something for you?"

The humble, patient fidelity of the girl touches Bonnibel to the heart,
it is so seldom that an honest, heartfelt word of kindness falls on
her ears. Impulsively she bends and puts her lily white hand into the
strong clasp of the girl sitting humbly at her feet, looking up at her
with tear-filled eyes.

"Lucy, my poor girl," she says, plaintively, "I believe you are the
only true friend I have on earth!"

"Then can't I help you, Miss Bonnibel?" cried Lucy, feeling that the
words of her young mistress are too true for her to dispute them.
"Something troubles you--can't I help you to be happier?"

A sigh--hopeless, passionate, profound--drifts across the lips of the
listener.

"No no, my poor, kind girl," she answers; "no one can help me--I must
bear my own cross--no one can carry it for me! Only stay with me, Lucy,
and love me always--I have so few to love me--and I shall feel better
when I can see that your kind heart sympathizes with me."

"I'll never leave you, my dear mistress," sobs the girl; "I'll never
forget to love every hair of your innocent head."

She kisses the little hand Bonnibel has given her reverently and
tenderly, as if it were some precious thing.

"Lucy, I am going to test your fidelity," says the girl, drearily. "I
am going away to Europe next week. Will you go with me?"

Lucy stares open-mouthed.

"To Yurrup, Miss Bonnibel! Away off to them furrin parts?"

"Yes, Lucy, away off there. Does your courage fail you?" her mistress
inquires, with a slight, sad smile.

"No, no, ma'am. I don't like furrin people much; but I'll go to the
ends of the earth with you!" is the resolute reply.

"Your devotion shall not be taxed that far, Lucy. We will go to France."

"That heathen land," exclaims Lucy, "where the monseers eats frogs and
snakes?"

Bonnibel cannot repress a smile at the girl's quick gesture of disgust.

"You will like the French people better, I hope, when you stay among
them two years, for I shall probably stay in Paris that long. I am
going to school there, Lucy. You know that I have never been to
school in my life, and my governesses were not strict enough with me.
There are many things I do not know yet, that one moving in society I
frequent should know. So I am going to learn something yet. It is never
too late to mend, you know."

Lucy looks up, her eyes growing round with surprise.

"Lor', Miss Bonnibel, I never heard of a married woman going to school
in my life."

"Perhaps you never heard of a married woman so untutored as I am," her
young mistress returns, somewhat bitterly; "anyway, I am determined to
go to school and learn something. But I cannot do without a maid, and I
will take you, if you will go."

"That I certainly will, Miss Bonnibel," said Lucy, emphatically.

"Very well, Colonel Carlyle and I will start to New York to-morrow to
make preparations for our trip. See that the trunks are all packed,
Lucy."

"I will, ma'am. They shall be ready, never fear."

She rises and looks wistfully at the little white figure in the chair,
resting its dimpled chin in the curve of one pink palm, the golden head
bent wearily.

"Sha'n't I get you something? Indeed, you look ill," she implores.

"Nothing, Lucy. Good-night."

"Good-night, ma'am," Lucy responds, going away rather reluctantly.

Bonnibel makes no move to retire when Lucy has gone. The little white
bed awaits her, tempting to repose by its daintiness and coolness, but
she does not look toward it; only sits still as Lucy left her, with her
face bowed on her hand.

Colonel Carlyle has gone back to the ball-room again, trying to steel
his heart against the upbraidings of his conscience. He moves among the
revelers pale and _distrait_, yet still trying to bear his part in the
gaieties lest people should whisper that he is unhappy, and fearful
that some one may read the secret of his jealousy and cruelty to his
beautiful darling.

Curious glances follow him, whispers breathe the story that he fain
would conceal, every eye notes Bonnibel's absence.

They shrug their shoulders and tell each other in confidence that
Colonel Carlyle is a perfect Bluebeard, and has banished his wife from
the festal scene because he is jealous of Byron Penn.

And the music and the dancing go on until daylight warns the gay ones
to flee from that too true light that reveals their weariness and
haggardness so plainly.

But the ball is long since over for Bonnibel. Lucy finds her as she
left her, curled up in the great arm-chair, sleeping like a grieved
child, with the trace of tears on her cheek.



CHAPTER XXII.


Long Branch is electrified next day by the sudden departure of the
Carlyles for New York.

Surprise and wonder run high, and the curious ones seek Felise,
thinking that she, if any one, must be acquainted with the whys and
wherefores.

But Felise is rather reticent on the subject.

"I will tell you all I know," she says, with a pretty affectation of
frankness. "That is not much. The Carlyles are going abroad next week
and the colonel is going to put his wife at a convent school in Paris
to finish her education and perfect herself in music. He told me that
much this morning, and I did not ask him why he proposed taking such a
singular step."

"You thought him so crazed by jealousy that he could hardly account for
his whims in a rational manner, eh?" inquired one.

"It is monstrous!" says another. "Why, the girl was as finished and
elegant in her manners as mortal could be. It were impossible to add
another charm to her."

While Byron Penn quoted with enthusiasm:

    "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
     To smooth the ice; or add another hue
     Unto the rainbow; or with taper light
     To seek the beauteous eye of Heaven to garnish,
     Were wasteful and ridiculous excess."

It was a nine days' wonder, and then it was over. People voted Colonel
Carlyle a bear and a Bluebeard, and his lovely young bride a victim and
martyr. They said that he was secluding her from the world because he
was too jealous for the light of Heaven to shine upon her.

The young poet indited some charming verses for his favorite magazine:
"To Those Blue Eyes Across the Sea," and then the gossip began to die
out, and new subjects engrossed society's mind.

Months rolled on, and the Carlyle _eclaircissement_ was almost
forgotten, or at least but seldom named, even by those who had been the
most interested at first.

But Felise was jubilant.

"Mother, you see what I can do," she said, with a wicked laugh. "The
honeymoon is barely over, yet I have thrown sand in the old man's eyes
and parted him from his darling for two whole years."

"Felise, how did you accomplish it?" Mrs. Arnold inquired curiously.

"That is my secret," she answered, triumphantly.

"You might share it with me," her mother said, reproachfully. "I never
have secrets from you, my dear."

"I only used a little tact and humbug, mother--just a word dropped
in season here and there--yet the seed I sowed has brought forth an
abundant harvest. I have driven him nearly mad with jealousy and doubt
and suspicion; I put that scheme of sending Bonnibel to school into his
mind. And yet so blinded is he by his jealousy that he does not dream
of my complicity in the matter, and he will always blame himself for
the everlasting alienation that will exist between them."

"You had your revenge sooner than I thought you would. You are a clever
girl, Felise," Mrs. Arnold said, admiringly.

"It is but begun," Felise answered, moodily. "If time spares the old
man until Bonnibel comes out of her school I will wring his heart even
more deeply than I have already done. I bide my time."

Her mother, cruel and vindictive as she was herself, looked at her in
wonder.

"Why, it seems to me that you have already deeply avenged yourself,"
she said.

"Hell has no fury like a woman scorned!" Felise exclaimed, repeating
her favorite text. "Be patient, mother, and you shall yet see what a
woman scorned can do."

"What does Colonel Carlyle propose to do with himself while his wife is
immured in her convent?" asked Mrs. Arnold.

"He talks of a trip around the world. He affects to be very fond of
travel now. But I could see while he talked to me that the old fool
repented his intention and would retract it if he could."

"Perhaps he may do so yet."

"No, he will not. He is too proud and stubborn to do so voluntarily,
and I think that Bonnibel has acquiesced so readily in the plan that
he can find no loop-hole of escape from it. She is as proud as he is;
besides, she does not love him, and his unreasoning harshness has
rendered her perfectly reckless. She will go to the school, if only to
break his heart."

"Perhaps he will die of grief, Felise, or disappointment, and then she
will be left a wealthy young widow," cautions Mrs. Arnold.

"No danger," sneers Felise, cynically. "Men have died and worms have
eaten them, but not for _love_, as the immortal Shakespeare says,
mother. I do not anticipate such a contingency. The old dotard has
buried two partners and not succumbed to the pangs of bereavement yet.
It is possible he may live to plant the weeping willow over his little
white-faced dove."

"Perhaps so. She has never seemed over strong since her illness last
summer."

"She has been grieving over the loss of Leslie Dane," Felise answered,
carelessly.

She goes to the piano, strikes a few chords, and gets up again,
wandering about the room restlessly. There is a marked fitfulness and
unrest in her every movement, and her eyes flash and roll about in
their sockets in a way that troubles her mother.

"Felise, do you sleep well at night?" she inquires, abruptly.

"Why should I not?" the girl asks, turning her head away.

"I do not know; but there is a haggardness and restlessness about
you as if you didn't sleep much. I fancy you are getting nervous and
wakeful brooding over this revenge of yours. Your face has grown wan
and your eyes quite wild. Take care of yourself or you will lose your
beauty."

"Never mind, mother; when we go to Paris next year I will go to one of
those wonderful women there and have myself made beautiful forever."

"To Paris? Do you really mean it, Felise? I thought you said the last
time we went abroad that you were tired of it and never meant to go
again."

"I have changed my mind, mother. That is the privilege of the fair sex,
you know."

"I suppose you have some motive in this change of mind, Felise."

"Yes. I have. I want to be on hand when Mrs. Carlyle comes forth from
her finishing school. I have a fancy to see her after the polishing
process is completed."

She laughs softly to herself as if something pleasant has occurred to
her.

"Well, well, have your own way about it, my dear--you always do. But
I wish you could forget the Carlyles and enjoy life better. We have
everything to make it enjoyable, and if you wanted to marry, why you
could buy almost anyone you wanted with our wealth."

"I could not buy Colonel Carlyle, mother, though I wanted him very
much. He is the wealthiest man I know of anywhere."

"You do not need to marry for wealth, my daughter; we have enough of
our own."

Felise did not answer. She was absorbed in thought. Nothing Mrs. Arnold
could say made the least impression on her mind.

She was wedded to one idea, and as the weeks and months rolled by it
only took a firmer hold on her feelings.



CHAPTER XXIII.


"Madam Carlyle, monsieur, your husband, awaits you in the _salon_."

The tall, beautiful blonde, practicing a difficult sonata at the piano,
pauses a moment and suffers her white hands to rest idly on the keys.

"Colonel Carlyle, did you say, madam?" she inquires calmly.

The dignified head of the Parisian school bows in assent, and stands
awaiting her pupil's pleasure. The latter rises slowly, folds her
music together, restores it to the proper place and turns to leave the
music-room.

"You will wish to make some changes in your dress, of course," the lady
superior blandly asserts.

Madam Carlyle gives a glance downward at her dress of dark blue
cashmere. It is made with almost nun-like simplicity, and fits her
rounded, graceful form to perfection. The neck and sleeves are finished
with frills and fine lace, and there is not an ornament about her
except the rings on her tapering fingers. She does not need ornament.
She is rarely, peerlessly beautiful with her fair flower-face and
luxuriant crown of golden hair.

"It is not necessary," she answers. "Colonel Carlyle is perhaps
impatient."

There is a delicate-veiled sarcasm in the words barely perceptible to
the trained hearing of the listener. With that simple speech she turns
and glides from the room, leaving the lady superior gazing after her in
some surprise.

"They say that we in France make _mariages de convenance_," she murmurs
in French (which we will spare our readers); "but surely the Americans
must do likewise. That old man and that fair young girl--surely it is
the union of winter and summer. After two years' absence she goes to
him as coolly as an iceberg."

Meanwhile Mrs. Carlyle has glided down the long hall, opened the door
of the reception-room with a steady hand, and stepped across the
threshold.

"Bonnibel!" exclaims a voice, trembling with rapture and emotion--"my
darling wife!"

His arms are about her, his lips touch hers.

After a moment she gently disengages herself and looks up in his face.

"Colonel Carlyle," she exclaims, involuntarily, "how changed you are!"

Ten years instead of two seem to have gone over his head.

A look of age and weakness has grown into his face, his erect form has
acquired a perceptible stoop; yet a look of disappointment flashes into
his eyes at her words.

"It is only the fatigue of travel," he answers, quickly. "I have been a
great wanderer since we parted, my dear, and the weariness of travel is
still upon me. But as soon as I get rested and recuperated I shall look
quite like myself again."

"I hope so," she answers, politely. "Pray resume your seat sir."

He looks at her a little wistfully as she seats herself some distance
from him.

"Bonnibel, are you glad to see me again?" he asks, gently.

She looks up, startled, and hesitating what to say to this point-blank
question.

He sees the struggle in a moment, and adds, quickly and a little sadly:

"Never mind, my dear, you need not answer. I see you have not forgotten
my harshness in the past, and you are not prepared with an answer that
would make me happy. But, my darling, you must learn forgetfulness of
those things that alienated you from me, for I shall bend every effort
now to the one object of making you happy. I have come to take you away
with me, Bonnibel."

A slight, almost impalpable, shiver runs through her at the words, and
she smothers a faint sigh.

She will be very sorry to leave this haven of peace in which she has
rested securely the last two years. She has grown fond of her quiet
life among the "passionless, pale-cold" nuns of the convent, and is
loth to break its repose by going back to the jar and fret of life with
her jealous husband. She wishes that she might stay in the convent all
her life.

"Do you intend to return at once to the United States, sir?" she
inquires, being at a loss for something to say.

"Not yet, unless you particularly desire it. I want you to see
something of life in the gay French Capital--'dear, delightful Paris,'
as we Americans call it. I have rented an elegant _chateau_ and
furnished it in handsome style, according to what I fancied your taste
would prefer; have engaged a retinue of servants; and there is a lovely
garden of roses; in short, the home is ready, and only awaits its
mistress. I have tried to arrange everything as you would like it."

"Thank you; you are very kind," she murmurs, almost inaudibly.

"The next thing," he goes on, "is to take you to Worth, where you
may order an outfit as handsome as a queen's, if you choose. And
jewels--well, you shall have as many and as costly ones as you like."

"I have enough jewels, I think," she answers. "There are the pearls
Uncle Francis gave me; then my wedding-gift--the diamonds."

"Tut, tut; you will need many more when you are fairly launched on
the tide of gay society here. You will see women fairly loaded
with jewels--you must not have less than they. Not but that you are
beautiful enough to dispense with extraneous ornament, but I wish you
to outshine all others in adornment as well as in beauty."

The long lashes droop over her cheeks a little sadly as he talks. So
these are the things with which she is to fill her life--society,
dress, jewels, fashion. A long life, too, perhaps, for she is barely
twenty-one now. For other women there may be love and happiness--for
her nothing but the gilded pleasures that wealth can purchase. Ah,
well, and with a start she remembers Mrs. Arnold's threat and her weak
subjugation by it--these are the things for which she sold herself to
the old man sitting yonder. She made the bargain herself, and now she
must abide by it. She is a fettered slave, but at least her bonds are
golden ones.

"You are very kind," she answers, trying hard to be cordial and
grateful for his generosity. "I do not know how to thank you for your
munificence, sir."

"I will tell you," he answers, quickly. "Try to like me a little,
Bonnibel. Once I dreamed of winning your love; but things went wrong
and I--I--perhaps I was too harsh with the bonny bird I had caught--so
I came near earning your hatred instead. But that was so long ago. You
will try to forgive me and like me just a little now, my wife."

The pathos of his words, his aged, weary looks touch a tender chord in
her young heart, and thaw out a little of the icy crust of reserve that
has been freezing around it these two years.

She rises impulsively and walks over to him, putting her delicate hand,
warm with youth and health, into his cold, white, trembling one.

"Indeed, I will try," she says, earnestly. "Only be kind to me, and do
not frighten me with your jealous fancies, and I will like you very
much indeed!"

He kisses the little hand with the ardor of a boyish lover, feeling his
heart beat warm and youthful still at her gently-spoken words.

"A thousand thanks, my angel!" he exclaims. "Your words have made me
very happy. I will try to curb my jealous temper and merit your sweet
regard. And now, my dearest, how soon can you accompany me? I do not
want to go away without you."

"You wish me to go at once--to-day?" she stammers, drawing back ever so
slightly.

"To-day--at once," he answers. "I have wearied for a sight of you so
long, my wife, that I cannot let you go again. I want you to put on
a carriage costume at once, and I will take you to Worth's, and from
thence to the _chateau_."

"But my maid--and my trunks," she urges, in dismay.

"Tell your maid to pack your trunks and we will send for them this
evening, and her also. By the way, who is your maid? Have you a
competent one?" he inquires.

"You remember Lucy--the girl who came over with me from New York?" she
says.

He frowns slightly.

"Ah, yes; but she will not suit you now, dear. You must let her go, and
secure a skillful French maid."

"Let Lucy go--the faithful creature!" For the first time her lip
quivers. "Oh, no, I cannot part with Lucy. She has been my attendant
ever since I was a child, and is the only link that is left to me out
of my old life."

"Keep her with you still, then, but secure a French maid also, and let
Lucy hold a sinecure."

"It would break her heart, Colonel Carlyle, to depose her from her post
as my chief helper. Besides, though she is rather illiterate, the girl
has real talent and taste in her vocation. Pray do not ask me to give
her up."

"As you please, my dear. But now go and make your adieux to the lady
superior and your friends here, and prepare to accompany me to your
new home," said the colonel, with slight impatience, for he already
felt his dominant passion, jealousy, rising within him at Bonnibel's
openly-expressed preference for her maid. Old or young, male or female,
he could not feel contented that anyone but himself should hold a place
in his young wife's heart.

She went away and remained what seemed a long time to the impatient
old man. She came back with slightly-flushed cheeks and a mist in her
sea-blue eyes, attended by the superior of the convent.

With a brief and gentle farewell to her, Bonnibel entered the carriage
with her husband.



CHAPTER XXIV.


"Hurrah, Leslie!"

"Well, Carl!"

"Our pictures are sold!"

"What pictures?"

"What pictures?" mimicking the indifferent tone. "Oh! how indifferent
we are! yet a year ago how blessed were the feet of the messenger who
brought such tidings! Success falls upon you, my boy. Now with me a
ready sale is quite an event. Of course I meant the pictures we sent to
Paris!"

The same old studio at Rome into which we looked three years ago, and
the same two artists we saw then. Carl Muller had just entered, waving
an open letter over his head.

The gay, mercurial German looked as boyishly handsome as ever, as
though time had forgotten him. Not so with Leslie Dane, who stood
beside a half-finished picture, critically regarding it. He was
handsomer than ever, as though the subtle hand of a sculptor had been
at work upon his features chiseling the fine Greek outlines into rarer
perfection and delicacy. A few lines of thought and care added rather
than detracted from the interest with which one turned a second time to
look at his face. The full lips half shaded by the dark mustache had
lost a little of the almost womanly sweetness of the past and acquired
a sterner curve. Into the dark eyes there had crept a gleam of brooding
sadness, and a few silver threads shone in the clustering locks about
his white brow. His last three years had made their mark upon him in
many subtle changes.

"I could have told you that yesterday, Carl," he said, smiling, "but
you were out when my letter came, and I was so busy over my picture
here that I forgot it when you returned."

"The agent wrote to you first then," said Carl. "He might have had the
courtesy to drop me a line at the same time."

"Do not blame him too much, Carl," said Leslie Dane. "He was in a
hurry about writing to me because he had a letter to inclose from the
purchaser of the pictures."

"Another commission, you lucky dog!" exclaimed Carl Muller.

"It amounts to that, I suppose. He wants me to go to Paris and paint
his wife's portrait. If I will not go to Paris he will come to Rome."

"If the mountain will not go to Mahomet, then Mahomet must go to the
mountain," said Carl.

"Something that way," said Leslie, carelessly.

"You will accept, of course. The old fellow paid such an extravagant
price for the pictures that another commission might be a temptation
even to you who have lately been surfeited with success."

"The money certainly might be an object, but I think I shall refuse,"
was the abrupt reply.

"Refuse!" exclaimed Carl, in surprise, "and why, if I may ask?"

"The man is an American."

"So are you," cried the German, surprised at the dark frown that
darkened on Leslie's brow. "Is that a disgrace?"

"I suppose not. Yet I will have nothing to do with my countrymen," said
the artist, sternly.

Carl gave vent to a low whistle.

"Ye gods! An American--born under the shadow of the eagle's wing of
liberty, a citizen of a land the most patriotic upon earth--coolly
repudiating his country! I never expected to see such a novel sight
under the sun!"

"You mistake me, Carl," said Leslie Dane, a little vexed. "I do not
repudiate my native land. I revere her as the noblest country upon
earth, but I am from henceforth an exile, self-expatriated from her
shores, and I do not wish to meet anyone who can recall memories I
would fain forget."

"You are a strange fellow, Leslie, I cannot understand your moods."

"You do not? Shall I explain, Carl? Listen, then."

Carl looked up into the dark face with its look of proud grief mingled
with bitterness.

"No, no; forgive my levity," he said; "I would not intrude upon your
secret, dear friend. Let it rest."

"It does not matter," said Leslie, his deep voice full of pain. "I will
tell you, Carl. It is only this: One woman in that fair land where I
was born has played me false and ruined my life. I hate and shun all
Americans for her sake!"

He took up his brush and went to work at his picture without another
word. Carl was silent also; he was recalling that episode of three
years ago when Leslie in his wild outbreak had painted out the portrait
of his fair, false-hearted love.

"So he has not forgotten her," he thought; "and yet he has never
breathed another word of her until to-day. Ah! she will never know what
a true and noble heart she cast away."

He sat still awhile thinking profoundly, and referring to his letter
now and then with ever-increasing pride in the lucrative sale of his
picture, for Carl was a lazy fellow, and though he commenced numbers
of things seldom had patience to finish them. Consequently a completed
work and its ready sale had all the charm of novelty to him.

"I say," he said, breaking the silence that had brooded as long as
he could bear it, and returning to the charge upon his friend, "old
fellow, it's a shame you should refuse such a profitable commission for
a scruple I must say is not worthy of you. Do accept it, Leslie. This
old fellow--let me see"--referring again to his letter--"Carlyle his
name is--Colonel Carlyle--need not trouble you much with the sight of
his obnoxious face, and the old lady--Favart says he is an old man, so
of course she is an old lady--need only give you a few sittings. They
would not trouble you long, and you need not think of them as Americans
at all. Simply regard the sitter as your model, and think no more about
it."

Leslie Dane did not answer, but the slight smile that played around his
lips showed that he had been an attentive listener to Carl's admonition.

"You know," resumed Carl, seeing that Leslie would not answer, "we
have been promising ourselves a trip to Paris for ever so long. I
see no chance so suitable as the present when I have this pot of
money to spend, and when you might so agreeably combine business with
pleasure in the execution of this portrait and the enjoyment of all the
pleasures of Paris. Recollect, you would be fairly lionized there."

"I do not fancy being lionized," said Leslie Dane, grimly.

"Do you not! Now, I should enjoy it above all things. But since I am
not apt to have that honor I should enjoy following in your wake and
taking all the glories second-hand. I should be sure to get a little
of the honor reflected on me, for though I am not the rose, you know I
have lived near it."

Leslie Dane looked up with a quizzical smile.

"Confess now, Carl," he said, "that nothing will content you but to
get away and spend the gold you have earned. All your flattery and
sophistry leads to this--that you are wild for a companion to aid and
abet you in spending the money that is burning a hole in your pocket
this minute."

"Somehow the gold does seem to burn through my pockets," said Carl,
reflectively. "But, tra, la, what is it good for but to buy pleasure?"

He began to hum a few bars of a German song with a gay refrain.

"Come, come, get to your work," exclaimed the other. "Your signal
success with your last work should stimulate you to renewed efforts."

"So it will," affirmed Carl; "but not to-day. I feel so giddy over my
good news that I could not work to-day. I should hardly know how to mix
my colors. I feel as lazy, shiftless and good-natured as the Italian
lazzaroni out in the sunshine."

Leslie Dane gave a little sigh as he looked at his happy companion.
Nothing ever seemed to ruffle the gay current of his good nature. His
temperament was an enviable one.

"Carl, did you ever have a sweetheart?" Leslie asked curiously.

"Sweethearts--yes, a score of them," laughed Carl. "More Gretchens,
Madchens, and Anitas than you could count on your fingers. Why do you
ask?"

"Only for curiosity. I thought you could not be so care-free and joyous
if love had ever come into your life."

"That is according to how we look at love," said the German; "with you
it is all a solemn epic or tragedy. With me it would be a pretty little
poem or a happy song."

Leslie sighed but did not answer.

"Come, now," said the German, "we have wandered from our subject. Give
up your selfishness this once, Leslie, and take a holiday. Come with me
to Paris next week."

Leslie stood silently meditating, and Carl saw that the battle was
almost won.

"Don't hesitate," said he, pushing his advantage. "Indeed you work too
hard, my boy. There is no need of it since you have forsworn marriage.
Take a breathing spell and come with me to Paris and paint old Mrs.
Carlyle's portrait."

Leslie frowned slightly at the words.

"Pray do not mention those people again," he said, in an irritated
tone. "Perhaps I will accompany you to Paris; but I have no fancy to
paint the portrait of a wrinkled old woman."



CHAPTER XXV.


"Confound the impudence of such fellows!" said Colonel Carlyle,
fretfully, as he entered his wife's morning-room.

It was a charming apartment with hangings of pale blue satin that made
a perfect foil to the pearl-fair beauty of Bonnibel.

The chairs and sofas were upholstered in the same rich material; the
carpet was white velvet, sprinkled over with blue forget-me-nots; the
costly white lace curtains were draped over blue satin, and the bright
fire burning in the silver grate shone upon expensive gilding and
delicate bric-a-brac scattered profusely about the room.

A marble Flora, half buried in flowers, stood in a niche, and vases of
delicate white lilies were on the marble mantel.

The young mistress of all this beauty and wealth so tastefully
combined, as she sat near the fire with an open book, looked like a gem
set in an appropriate shrine, so fair, and pure, and dainty, was her
person and her apparel.

She looked up with a slight smile as her liege lord's fretful
ejaculation fell upon her ears.

"What person has been so unfortunate as to incur your displeasure?" she
inquired.

"The artist of whom I purchased that splendid picture for the
drawing-room--the last one, you know."

"Yes," she said, languidly; "and what has he done now?"

"I wanted him to paint your portrait, you know."

"Excuse me, I did not know," she returned.

"Oh no; I believe you did not. I think I failed to mention the matter
to you. Well, he is the greatest artist in Rome--people are raving over
his pictures. They say he has the most brilliant genius of his time."

"Is that why you are angry with him?" she asked, with a slight smile.

"No; oh, no. But I wrote to him and asked him to paint your portrait. I
even offered to take you to Rome if he would not come to Paris."

"Well?"

"He had the impertinence to send me a cool refusal," said the colonel,
irately.

"He did--and why?" asked Bonnibel, just a little piqued at the unknown
artist.

"He did not like to paint portraits, he said--he preferred the ideal
world of art. Did you ever hear of such a cool excuse?"

"We have no right to feel angry with him. He is, of course, the master
of his own actions, and has undoubted right to his preferences," said
Bonnibel, calmly.

But though she spoke so quietly, her womanly vanity was piqued by the
unknown artist's cold refusal "to hand her sweetness down to fame."

"Who is he? What is his name?" she asked.

The colonel considered a moment.

"I have a wonderful faculty for forgetting names," he said. "Favart has
told me his name several times--let me see--I think--yes, I am sure--it
is _Deane_!"

"I should like to see him," she said, "I have always taken a great deal
of interest in artists."

"You will be very apt to see him," said the colonel; "he is in Paris
now--taking a holiday, Favart says. People are making quite a fuss
over him and his friend--the artist from whom I bought the other fine
picture, you know. You will be sure to meet them in society."

"Do you think so?" she asked, twirling the leaves of her book
nervously. The mention of artists and pictures always agitated her
strangely. She could not forget the young artist who had gone to
Rome to earn fame and fortune and died so soon. Her cheek paled with
emotion, and her eyes darkened with sadness under their drooping lashes
of golden-brown.

"Yes, there is not a doubt of it," he said. "In fact, I suppose we
shall have to invite them, too, though I do not relish it after the
fellow's incivility. But it is the privilege of greatness to be crusty,
I believe. Anyway, the fashionables are all _feting_ and lionizing him,
so we cannot well slight him. I shall have Monsieur Favart bring him
and his friend to our ball next week. What do you say, my dear?"

"Send him a card by all means," she answered, "I am quite curious to
see him."

"Perhaps he may repent his refusal when he sees how beautiful you are,
my darling," said the colonel, with a fond, proud glance into her face.
"His ideal world of art, as he calls it, cannot contain anything more
lovely than yourself."

"You flatter me, Colonel Carlyle," she said lightly, but in her heart
she knew that he had spoken truly. She had been afloat on the whirling
tide of fashionable life now for several months, and praises and
adulation had followed her everywhere. The gay Parisians went mad over
her pure blonde loveliness. They said she was the most beautiful and
refined woman in Paris, as well as the most cold and pure. She had
begun to take a certain pleasure in the gaieties of the world and in
the homage that followed her wherever she moved. These were the empty
husks on which she had to feed her heart's hunger, and she was trying
to find them sweet.

Colonel Carlyle's baleful jealousy had lain dormant or concealed even
since he had taken his wife from school.

True, his arch-enemy, Felise Herbert, was in Paris, but for some reason
of her own she had not as yet laid any serious pitfall for his unwary
feet.

Perhaps she was only playing with him as the cat does with the little
mouse before she ruthlessly murders it; perhaps Bonnibel's icy-cold
manner and studied reserve to all made it harder to excite the old
soldier's ever ready suspicion.

Be that as it may, life flowed on calmly if not happily to the colonel
and his young wife.

They met Mrs. Arnold and her daughter frequently in their fashionable
rounds, they invited them to their house, and received invitations in
return, but though the colonel was cordial, his wife was cold and proud
to the two women who had been so cruel to her and driven her into this
unhappy marriage with a man old enough to be her grandfather. She could
not forgive them for that cruel deed.

"I bide my time," Felise said to her mother one day when they were
discussing the Carlyles. "I am giving her a little taste of the world's
pleasures. I want her to fall in love with this life she is leading
here. She will be tempted by its enticements and forget her coldness
and prudishness. Then I shall strike."

"She is very circumspect," said Mrs. Arnold. "They say she is a model
of virtue and beautiful wifely obedience."

"The higher she soars now the lower her fall shall be!" exclaimed the
relentless girl, with her low, reckless laugh, "mother, I shall not
fail of my revenge!"

Ah! Felise Herbert! The coils of fate are tightening around you like a
deadly serpent while you exult in your wickedness.



CHAPTER XXVI.


The gay, pleasure-loving Parisians were on the _qui vive_ for Mrs.
Carlyle's masquerade ball, for it was everywhere conceded that her
entertainments were the most _recherche_ and delightful in the whole
city. Colonel Carlyle spared neither pains nor expense to render them
so.

In his laudable desire to further Bonnibel's happiness, the colonel
lavished gold like water. He knew no other path to success than this.
He wanted to win her regard, if possible, and his experience in society
had disposed him to believe that the most potent "open sesame" to a
woman's heart was wealth and power.

How far the colonel's convictions were true, or how ably he might have
succeeded in the darling wish of his heart, had things gone well,
we shall never know, for the frail superstructure of his happiness,
builded on the sand, was destined to be thrown down and shattered into
fragments by the wild winds of fate, that should converge into storms
on that fatal night to which so many looked forward with pleasure.

And yet not the faintest presentiment of evil came to him that day to
whisper of the gathering clouds of destiny. He knew not that his "house
of cards" tottered on its foundation, that the wreck and ruin of his
dearest hope was about to be consummated. He knew not, or he might have
exclaimed with the poet:

    "Of all that life can teach us,
       There's naught so true as this;
     The winds of fate blow ever,
       But ever blow amiss!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The brief winter day came at length, gloomy and overcast, with clouded
sky that overflowed with a wild, tempestuous rain, as though

    "The heart of Heaven was breaking
     In tears o'er the fallen earth."

At night the storm passed over, the bright stars shone through the
misty veil of darkness, a lovely silver moon hung its crescent in the
sky. All things seemed propitious for the hour that was "big with fate"
to the lovely girl whose changing fortunes we have followed to the
turning point of her life.

Cold, and dark, and gloomy though it seemed outside, all was light, and
warmth, and summer in the splendid chateau.

Hot-house flowers bloomed everywhere in the most lavish profusion. The
air was heavy with their fragrance.

Entrancing strains of music echoed through the splendid halls, tempting
light feet to the gay whirl of the dance. The splendid drawing-rooms,
opening into each other, looked like long vistas of fairy-land, in
the glow of light, and the beauty shed around by countless flowers
overflowing great marble vases everywhere. The gay masquers moved
through the entrancing scene, chatting, laughing, dancing, as though
life itself were but one long revel. In the banqueting hall the long
tables were loaded with every luxury under the sun, temptingly spread
on gold and silver plates. Nothing that taste could devise, or wealth
could procure, was lacking for the enjoyment of the guests; and
pleasure reigned supreme.

It was almost the hour for unmasking, and Colonel Carlyle stood alone,
half hidden by a crimson-satin curtain, looking on idly at the gay
dancers before him.

He felt weary and dull, though he would not have owned it for the
world. He hated to feel the weakness and feebleness of old age creeping
over him, as it was too surely doing, and affected to enter into all
the gaieties of the season, with the zest and ardor of a younger and
stronger man.

He had for a few moments felt dull, sad and discontented. The reason
was because he had lost sight of his beautiful idol whom no mask could
hide from his loving eyes.

She had disappeared in the moving throng a little while ago, and now he
impatiently waited until some happy chance should restore her to his
sight again.

"I am very foolish over my darling," he said to himself, half proudly,
half seriously. "I do not believe that any young man could worship her
as passionately as I do. I watch over her as closely and jealously as
if some dread mischance might remove her from my sight at any moment.
Ah, those dreadful two years in which I so cruelly put her out of my
life and starved my eyes and my heart--would that I might recall them
and undo their work! Those years of separation and repentance have
sadly aged me!"

He sighed heavily, and again his anxious gaze roved through the room.

"Ah, there she is," he murmured, delightedly. "My beautiful Bonnibel!
how I wish the time for unmasking would come. I cannot bear for her
sweet face to be hidden from my sight."

At that moment a small hand fluttered down upon his arm.

He turned abruptly.

Beside him stood a woman whose dark eyes shone through her concealing
mask like coals of fire. She spoke in a low, unfamiliar voice:

"I know you, sir. Your mask cannot hide Colonel Carlyle from my eyes."

"Madam, you have the advantage of me," he answered politely. "Will you
accord me the privilege of your name?"

"It matters not," she answered, with a low, eerie laugh, whose
strangeness sent a cold thrill like an icy chill along his veins, "I am
but a wandering sibyl; I claim no name, no country."

"Perhaps you will foretell my future," he said, humoring her assumption
of the character.

"It were best concealed," she said, and again he heard that strange,
blood-curdling laugh.

He bowed and stood gazing at her silently, wondering a little who she
could be.

The wandering sibyl stood silent, too, as if lost in thought. Presently
she started and spoke like one waking from a dream:

"And yet perhaps I may give you a word of warning."

"Pray do so," he answered carelessly, for his eyes had returned to the
graceful form of Bonnibel as she stood leaning against a tall stand of
flowers at a little distance from him.

The woman's eyes followed his. She frowned darkly beneath her mask.

"You have gathered many distinguished guests around you to-night,
Colonel Carlyle," she said, abruptly.

"None more honored than yourself, madam, be sure, although unknown," he
answered, with a courtly bow.

"Pretty words," she answered, with a mocking laugh. "Let me repay them
by a friendly warning."

She bent nearer and breathed in a low, sibilant whisper:

"Your wife and the great artist who is your honored guest to-night,
were lovers long ago. Watch well how they meet when unmasked to-night!"

With the words she glided from him like the serpent forsaking Eden.

And that deadly serpent, jealousy, that had lain dormant in the
colonel's heart for months, "scotched but not killed," now coiled
itself anew for a fatal spring.

The blood in his veins seemed turning to liquid fire.

His heart beat so wildly that he could distinctly hear its rapid throbs.

He felt frightened at the swiftness and violence of the passion that
flooded his whole being.

The words spoken by the masked woman seemed to burn themselves into his
heart.

"Your wife and the great artist who is your honored guest to-night were
lovers long ago. Watch well how they meet when unmasked to-night."

For a moment Reason tried to assert her supremacy, and whisper, "Peace,
be still," to the seething whirlpool of emotion.

"Do not believe it," she said. "Someone is trying to tease you. It is
quite impossible that Bonnibel and this foreign artist should have met
before. Anonymous warnings should always be treated with contempt."

And then he remembered the anonymous note he had received at Long
Branch two years before.

"_That_ was true," he said to himself. "Bonnibel as good as admitted
it, for she would not show me the inscription in the ring, and she
refused to give up wearing it. But she said that the giver was dead.
Had she had two lovers, then, innocent and youthful as she was? Perhaps
she deceived me. Women are not to be trusted, they say. I will obey the
warning of my unknown friend and watch."

He waited impatiently for the summons to supper, which would be the
signal for laying aside the masks.

"It must be true," he said to himself, "for that would explain why he
was so discourteous about painting her portrait. He did not wish to
be thrown into familiar contact with her again. Perhaps she had used
him cruelly. It may be that she threw him over because he was poor and
unknown, then, and accepted me only for the sake of my wealth."

He was nearly maddened by these tumultuous thoughts. He was almost
on the point of going to her at once and overwhelming her with the
accusation of her wrong-doing.

At that moment the signal came and his guests unmasked.

He saw Monsieur Favart coming toward him accompanied by a handsome
distinguished-looking young man in the costume of a knight. He had
never met the great Roman artist, yet he felt a quick intuition that
this must be the man. The premonition was verified for Monsieur Favart
paused before him and said:

"Colonel Carlyle, it gives me pleasure to present my artist friend, Mr.
Dane."

The two gentlemen bowed to each other, but for a moment Colonel Carlyle
could not speak. When he did his voice was hoarse and strained, and
his words of welcome were so few that Monsieur Favart looked at him in
surprise. What had become of the old colonel's urbanity and courtliness?

"You will allow me to present you to my wife, Mr. Dane," said the host,
breaking the silence with an effort.

The artist bowed and they moved down the long room side by side, the
old man with his white face and silvery beard, the young one with his
princely grace and refined beauty.

Leslie Dane had been most reluctant to attend the ball given by the
American colonel, but Carl Muller had teased him into compliance. He
had nerved himself for the trial, and found that he could bear the
contact with one from his native land with more _sang froid_ than he
expected.

"Now I shall see the old lady," was his half-smiling comment to himself
as he walked along. "I wonder if she is very angry with me because I
would not paint her portrait."

The next moment, before he had time to raise his eyes, he found himself
bowing hurriedly at the sound of his host's voice uttering the usual
formal words of introduction.

Bonnibel was standing alone by a tall _jardiniere_ of flowers, looking
downward a little thoughtfully. She was dressed as Undine, in a
floating robe of sea-green, with billows of snowy tulle, looped with
water-lilies and sea-grasses, and lightly embroidered with pearls and
tiny sea-shells. Her appropriate ornaments were _aquamarines_ in a
setting of golden shells. Her long, golden hair fell unbound over her
shoulders and rippled to her waist, enveloping her form in a halo of
brightness. She looked like a beautiful siren of old ocean, as fair and
fresh and beautiful as Venus when she first arose from its coral caves.

Someone had said to her just a moment before, "Mrs. Carlyle, you look
like a beautiful picture," and the words had recalled to her mind the
great artist who had refused to paint her portrait.

"I wonder if Mr. _Deane_ is here to-night," she was thinking, when
Colonel Carlyle's voice spoke suddenly beside her, and she bowed
haughtily, actuated by a little feeling of pique, and lifted her
sea-blue eyes to the face of the artist. She met his gaze fixed
steadily upon her with a look of utter surprise, bitter pain and
bitterer scorn upon his deathly pale face. In an instant the tide of
time rolled backward and these two, standing face to face the first
time in years, knew each other!

Ah, me! how could she bear the revelation that flashed over her so
swiftly, and live through its horror, its shame and disgrace! The words
she had been about to speak died unuttered on her lips, the lights,
the flowers, the stern, set face of Leslie Dane, all swam before her
eyes as things "seen in a glass, darkly." She threw up her hands
blindly and reeled backward, striking against the light _jardiniere_
as she fell. It was overturned by the shock, and scattered its wealth
of flowers about her as she lay there unconscious, as beautiful, as
fragile, as innocent as they.

For a moment neither Colonel Carlyle nor Leslie Dane moved or spoke. It
was a third person who pushed past them and lifted the fair, inanimate
form. For Colonel Carlyle, there was murder seething in his jealous
heart that moment, and in the breast of Leslie Dane a grand scorn was
strangling every emotion of pity.

    "Falser than all fancy fathoms,
     Falser than all songs have sung,"

was the thought in his heart as he looked down on the pale and lifeless
face.

People crowded around, with advice and restoratives, and as she came
back slowly to life they asked her what had caused her to faint. Was
she ill, were the flowers too overpowering, were the rooms too warm?

"I struck my head against the _jardiniere_ and fell," was all she would
say as she hid her pale face in her hands to shut out the sight of the
cold, calm eyes that looked down upon her with veiled scorn.

Colonel Carlyle revived sufficiently to lead her away to her room, and
people told each other that an accident had happened to Mrs. Carlyle.
She had struck her head against the _jardiniere_ of flowers and fainted
from the pain.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Colonel Carlyle would fain have lingered in Bonnibel's apartment
and asked for some explanation of her fainting spell, which he was
convinced was the result of her meeting with the artist, although her
simple assertion of striking her head against the _jardiniere_ had
deceived all others except himself, as it might have deceived him but
for the warning of the masked sibyl.

But it was quite true that she had hurt her head, and when the faithful
Lucy parted the thick locks and began to dress the slight wound,
her young mistress turned so ghastly pale and closed her eyes so
wearily that the jealous old man saw that it was no fitting time for
recrimination, and went away to attend to his guests, half-resolved to
have it out with the artist himself.

But calmer thoughts stepped in and forbade this indulgence of his
spleen. After all, what could he say to the young man? What did he know
wherewith to accuse him? His anonymous informant had only said that his
wife and the artist had been former lovers. What, then? How the gay
world would have laughed if he picked a quarrel with the lion of the
hour on such a charge as that.

Many of the women whom Colonel Carlyle knew would have deemed it an
honor to have been loved either in the past or present by the gifted
artist. No, there was nothing he could say to the man on the subject,
yet he determined that he would at least watch him closely, and if--if
there should be even the faintest attempt on his part to revive the
intimacy of the past, then woe unto him, for Colonel Carlyle was nerved
to almost any act of frenzy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bonnibel lifted her head when the colonel was gone and looked at her
faithful attendant with a face on which death itself seemed to have set
its seal.

"Oh, me! Miss Bonnibel, you are as white as a ghost," exclaimed Lucy.
"And no wonder! It is a bad cut, though not very deep. Does it hurt you
very much?"

"What are you talking of, Lucy? What _should_ hurt me?" inquired her
mistress in a wild, startled tone, showing that she had quite forgotten
her wound.

"Why, the cut on your head, to be sure," said Lucy in surprise.

"Oh! Heaven, I had forgotten that," moaned the poor young creature. "I
do not feel the pain, Lucy, for the wound in my heart is much deeper.
It is of that only I am thinking."

She bowed her face in her hands and deep, smothered moans shook her
from head to foot. The delicate frame reeled and shook with emotion
like some slender reed shaken by a storm.

Lucy knelt down at her feet and implored her mistress to tell her what
she could do to help her in her trouble, whatever it might be.

"Miss Bonnibel," she urged, "tell me something that I can do for
you--anything, no matter what, to help you out of your trouble if I
can."

Bonnibel hushed her sobs by a great effort of will, and looked down at
the faithful creature.

"Bring me my writing-desk, Lucy," she said, "and I will tell you what
you can do for me."

Lucy complied in wondering silence.

Bonnibel took out a creamy white sheet, smooth as satin, and wrote a
few lines upon it with a shaking hand. Then she dashed her pen several
times through the elaborate monogram "B.C." at the top of the sheet.

"Lucy," she said, as she inclosed her note in an envelope and hastily
addressed it, "do you remember a gentleman who used to visit at Sea
View before my Uncle Francis died--a Mr. Dane?"

"Perfectly well, ma'am," Lucy responded, promptly. "He was an artist."

"Yes, he was an artist. Should you know him again, Lucy?"

"I think I should, ma'am. He was very handsome, with dark eyes and
hair," said the girl, who was by no means behind her sex in her
appreciation of manly beauty.

"He is down-stairs now, Lucy--he is one of our guests to-night," said
Bonnibel, with a heavy sigh.

"Is it possible, ma'am?" exclaimed the girl, in surprise. "I
thought--at least I heard--Miss Herbert's maid told me a long while ago
that Mr. Dane was dead."

"There was some mistake," answered Bonnibel, drearily. "He is alive--I
have seen him. And now, Lucy, I will tell you what I wish you to do."

The girl stood listening attentively.

"You will take this note, my good girl, and go down-stairs and put it
in the hands of Mr. Dane, if you can find him. Try and deliver it to
him unobserved, and bring me back his answer."

"I will find him if he is to be found anywhere," said Lucy, taking the
note and departing on her secret mission.

Leslie Dane's first passionate impulse after his abrupt meeting with
his lost wife was to leave the house which sheltered her false head.

But as he was about to put his resolve into execution he was accosted
by a group of ladies and detained for half an hour listening to an idle
hum of words, from which he longed to tear himself away in the frenzy
of scorn and indignation which possessed him.

At length he excused himself, and was about passing through the
deserted hall on his way out when he encountered Bonnibel's maid.

Lucy had, like many illiterate persons, a keen recollection of faces.
She knew the artist immediately.

"You are Mr. Dane," she said, going up to him after a keen glance
around to see if she were unobserved.

"Yes," he answered, looking at her in wonder.

"I have a note for you, sir. Please read it and give me an answer at
once."

He took it, tore off the envelope, and read the few lines that Bonnibel
had penned, while a frown gathered on his brow.

"Well, sir?"

"Wait a moment."

He took a gold pencil from his pocket and hastily scribbled a few lines
on the back of Bonnibel's sheet. Lucy, watching him curiously under the
glare of gas-light, saw that he was deadly pale, and trembled like a
leaf.

"Give this to your mistress," he said, putting the sheet back in the
torn envelope, "and tell her that I am gone."

He turned away and walked rapidly out of sight.

Lucy sighed, she could not have told why, and turned back along the
hall.

"Hold, girl!" exclaimed a hoarse, passionate voice behind her.

She turned in a fright, and saw Colonel Carlyle just behind her, his
features distorted by rage and passion. He caught her arm violently and
tore the note from her grasp.

"I will myself deliver this note to your mistress," he said, "and as
for you, girl, go!"

He dragged her along the hallway to the open door, and pushed her out
violently into the street, bareheaded and with no wrapping to protect
her frail, womanly form from the rigors of the wintry night.

"Go, creature!" he thundered after her, "go, false minion of a false
woman, and never darken these doors again with your hated presence!"

Lucy sank down upon the wet and sleety pavement with a moan of pain,
and Colonel Carlyle closed and locked the door upon her defenseless
form.

Rage had transformed the courteous old man into something more
fiend-like than human.

As soon as he had disposed of his wife's attendant so summarily he
turned his attention to the note he had wrested from her reluctant
grasp.

Retiring into a deserted ante-room he opened and read it as coolly as
if it had been addressed to himself.

What he read caused the veins to start out upon his forehead like great
twisted cords, and his lips to writhe, while his face grew purple, and
his eyes almost started from their sockets.

Bonnibel had written:

  "Leslie, forgive me if you can. Before God, I wronged you innocently!
  I thought you _dead_! If there is one spark of pity or honor in your
  breast _keep my secret_. It would _kill_ me to have it known to
  the _world_! I will go away from here and hide myself in obscurity
  forever! Of course I cannot remain with Colonel Carlyle a day longer.
  You seemed very angry to-night--your eyes flashed lurid lightnings
  upon me. I pray you, do not believe me willfully guilty--do not
  betray me for the sake of revenge! The shame, the horror, the
  disgrace of _our fatal secret_ will kill me soon enough.

                                                        BONNIBEL."

Looking at the top of the page he saw that she had dashed her pen
several times through her monogram. He gnashed his teeth at the sight.

"What could she possibly mean by it?" he asked himself, as he turned
the sheet and read the artist's reply:

  "Do not fear for your proud position, Bonnibel. Mine is the last
  hand upon earth that would drag you down from it! Pursue your wonted
  way in peace and serenity. You need not go away--that is for me to
  do. God knows I would never have come here to-night had I dreamed of
  meeting _you_! But try to forget it! To-morrow I shall have passed
  out of your life forever, and that most deplorable _secret_ will be
  as safe with me as if I really were dead!

                                                     LESLIE DANE."

Colonel Carlyle crumpled those strange, unfathomable notes into his
breast-pocket, and went out with ominous calm to bid adieu to his
parting guests.

They had enjoyed themselves so much, they said, and with many regrets
for Mrs. Carlyle's unfortunate accident they hastened their departure.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Bonnibel sat crouching in her chair, a prey to the most hopeless
misery, waiting for Lucy's return.

She was stunned and bewildered by the force and suddenness of the blow
that had stricken her.

One tangible thought alone ran through the mass of confused and
conflicting feeling.

It was that she must fly, at all hazards, from her humiliating position
in Colonel Carlyle's house.

She did not know where she would go, or how she would manage her
flight. She would leave it all to Lucy.

The girl was clear-headed and intelligent. They would go away together,
and Lucy would find a hiding-place somewhere for her wretched head.

But, oh! the shame, the misery of it all!

Leslie Dane was alive, yet she who was his wife in the sight of Heaven
dare not rejoice in the knowledge. His resurrection from his supposed
death had fixed a blighting hand upon her beautiful brow.

"Oh, God!" she moaned, wringing her white hands helplessly, "what have
I done to deserve this heavy cross?"

The minutes passed slowly, but Lucy did not return. The little French
_pendule_ on the mantel chimed the quarters of the hour three times
while Bonnibel sat drooping in her chair alone. Then the door was
pushed rudely open and Colonel Carlyle entered.

In her dumb agony the creature failed to look up or even to distinguish
the difference in the step of Colonel Carlyle.

"You saw him, Lucy?" she asked, without lifting her head.

There was no reply.

She looked up in surprise at the girl's silence and saw Colonel Carlyle
standing in the center of the room regarding her fixedly.

Bonnibel had seen him jealous and enraged before, but she had never
seen him look as he did then.

The veins stood on his forehead like thick, knotted cords. His face was
purple with excitement, his eyes glared like those of a wild animal,
his hands were clenched. It seemed as though he only restrained himself
by a powerful effort of will from springing upon and rending her to
pieces.

Thus convulsed and speechless he stood gazing down upon her.

"Oh, Colonel Carlyle, you are ill," she exclaimed, regarding him in
terror. "Shall I not ring for assistance?"

He did not answer, but continued to gaze upon her in the same stony
silence.

Fearing that he was suddenly seized with some kind of a fit, she sprang
up and shook him violently by the arm.

But he shook off her grasp with such force and passion that she lost
her balance and fell heavily to the floor.

Half stunned by the violence of the fall she lay quite still a moment,
with closed eyes and gasping breath.

He looked at her as she lay there like a broken flower, but made no
effort to assist her.

Presently the dark blue eyes flashed open and looked up at him with a
quiet scorn in their lovely depths. She made no effort to rise, and
when she spoke her voice startled him with its tragic ring.

"Finish your work, Colonel Carlyle," she said, in those deep tones.
"I will thank you and bless you if you will strike one fatal blow that
shall lay me dead at your feet."

Something in the words or the tone struck an arrow of remorse into his
soul. He bent down and lifted the slight form, gently placing her back
in her chair.

"Pardon me," he said, coldly, "I did not mean to hurt you, but you
should not have touched me. I could not bear the touch of your hand."

She lifted her fair face and looked at him in wonder.

"Colonel Carlyle, what have I done to _you_?" she asked, in a voice of
strange pathos.

"You have wronged me," he answered, bitterly.

Her face blanched to a hue even more deathly than before, at his
meaning words. What did he suspect? What did he know?

"I know all," he continued, sternly.

For a moment she dropped her face in her hands and turned crimson from
brow to throat under his merciless gaze, then she looked up at him
proudly, and said, almost defiantly:

"If, indeed, you know all, Colonel Carlyle, you know, of a truth, that
I did not wrong you willfully."

He was silent a moment, drawing her crumpled note from his breast and
smoothing out the folds.

"This is all I know," he said, holding it up before her eyes. "This
tells me that you have wronged me, that you have a dreadful secret--you
and the man at whose feet you fainted to-night. You must tell me that
secret now."

"Where did you get the note?" she panted, breathlessly.

"Perhaps the artist gave it to me!" he sneered.

"I will not believe it," she said, passionately. "Lucy--where is Lucy?"

"She is out in the street where I thrust her when I found her with this
note," he answered, harshly. "It is enough that my roof must shelter a
false wife, it shall not protect her false minion!"

"Out in the street!" gasped Bonnibel, hoarsely. "In the cold and the
darkness. My poor Lucy! Let me go, too, then; I will find her and go
away with her. We will neither of us trouble you!"

She was rushing to the door, but he pushed her back into her seat,
locked the door and put the key into his pocket.

"We will see if you shall disgrace me thus," he cried out. "You
would fly from me, you said. And where? Perhaps to the arms of your
artist-lover! You would heap this disgrace on the head of an old man,
whose only fault has been that he loved you too well and trusted you
too blindly."

She shivered as he denounced her so cruelly; but not one word of
defiance came from her pale, writhing lips. The fair face was hidden in
her hands, the golden hair fell about her like a veil.

"But I will protect my honor," he continued, harshly. "I will see that
you do not desert me and make my name a by-word for the scorn of the
world. You shall stay with me, even though I am tempted to hate you;
you shall stay with me if I have to keep you _imprisoned_ to save my
honor!"

She looked up at him wildly.

"Oh, for God's sake, let me go!" she said. "In pity for me, in pity
for yourself, let me go away from you forever! It is wrong for me to
stay--I ought to go, I must go! Let the world say what it will--tell
them I am dead, or tell them I am mad, and chained in the walls
of a mad-house! Tell them anything that will save your honorable
name from shame, but let me go from under this roof, where I cannot
breathe--where the air stifles me!"

"It must indeed be a fatal secret that can make you rave so wildly," he
answered, bitterly. "Let me hear it, Bonnibel, and judge for myself if
it is sufficient to exile my wife from my home and heart."

She shivered at the words.

"Oh! indeed it is sufficient," she moaned, wringing her hands in
anguish. "I implore you to let me go."

"Let me be the judge," he answered again. "Tell me your reasons for
this wild step."

She was silent from sheer despair.

"Bonnibel, will you tell me the secret?" he urged, feverishly.

"I cannot. I cannot! Do not ask me!" she answered pleadingly.

"What if I demand it from Mr. Dane?" he said, threateningly.

"I do not believe he will tell you," she answered bitterly. "If he did
you would regret that you learned it. Oh! believe me, Colonel Carlyle,
that 'ignorance is bliss' to you in this case. Oh! be merciful and let
me go!"

"Would you know what answer your artist lover sent to your wild
appeal?" he exclaimed abruptly.

She looked at him wildly. He straightened out the sheet and read over
the words that Leslie Dane had written, in a bitter, mocking tone.

"Leslie Dane," he repeated. "Leslie Dane! Why, this is the first time
I have caught the villain's name aright! It seems familiar. I have
heard it somewhere long ago--let me think."

In a sudden excess of excitement he dropped the note and paced
furiously up and down the room. Bonnibel watched him forlornly under
her drooping lashes.

He stopped suddenly with a violent start, and looked at her sternly.

"I have it now," he said triumphantly. "My God! it is worse than I
thought; but when I knew his real name it all rushed over me! Yes,
Bonnibel, I know the fatal secret now, that you, oh! my God, share with
that miserable wretch!"

"Oh! no, you cannot know it," she breathed!

"I do know it," he answered sternly. "I remember it all now. Leslie
Dane is that guilty man who rests at this moment under the charge of
murdering your uncle!"

"It is false!" she exclaimed, confronting him indignantly. "No one ever
breathed such a foul aspersion upon Leslie Dane but you!"

"Great God! do you deny it?" he exclaimed in genuine surprise and
amazement. "Surely your brain is turned, Bonnibel. Everyone knows that
Leslie Dane was convicted of the murder on circumstantial evidence;
everyone knows that he fled the country and has been in hiding ever
since. But the fatal charge is still hanging over his head."

"I have never heard such a thing before, never! And I would believe
that Leslie Dane was guiltless in the face of all the evidence in the
world! He is the very soul of honor! He could not do a cowardly act
to save his life!" exclaimed Bonnibel, springing up in a fever of
passionate excitement.

Colonel Carlyle was fairly maddened by her words.

"You shall see whether he be guilty or not," he exclaimed, leaving the
room in a rage.

Bonnibel heard the key grate in the lock outside, and discovered, to
her dismay, that she was Colonel Carlyle's prisoner in truth.



CHAPTER XXIX.


"You went off from the ball in a hurry last night, Leslie. Why did you
not stop for me?"

It was Carl Muller who spoke. He had come into Mr. Dane's rooms the
morning after the ball and found him sitting over a cup of coffee,
looking haggard and weary in the clear light of day.

"Excuse me, Carl," he responded. "The actual truth is, I forgot you. I
was tired and wanted to come away, and I did so, _sans ceremonie_."

"Well, you look fagged and tired out, that's a fact. I never saw you
look so ill. Have a smoke; it will clear the mist from your brain."

"Thank you, no," said the artist, briefly.

Carl sat down on a chair and hummed a few bars of a song while he
regarded his friend in some surprise at his altered looks.

"I was sorry you went off without me, last night," he said presently.
"I wanted to chaff you a little. Weren't you surprised and abashed when
you found that the old woman whose portrait you declined to paint was
the loveliest angel in the world?"

"It was quite a surprise," Mr. Dane said, sipping his _cafe au lait_
composedly.

"Did you ever see such a beautiful young creature?" continued Carl,
with enthusiasm.

"Yes," was the unexpected reply.

"You have!" exclaimed Carl; "I did not think it possible for two such
divinities to exist upon this earth. Have the goodness to tell me where
you ever saw Mrs. Carlyle's equal in grace and loveliness."

But Mr. Dane, who but seldom descended to Carl's special prerogative,
poetry, sat down his cup and slowly repeated like one communing with
himself:

    "'I remember one that perished; sweetly did she speak and move;
      Such an one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.'"

"She is dead, then?" said Carl.

"She is dead to me," was the bitter reply.

And with a significant look Carl repeated the lines that came next to
those that Leslie had quoted:

    "'Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
      No, she never loved me truly; love is love forevermore.'"

"Forevermore," Leslie Dane repeated with something like a sigh.

He rose and began to pace the floor with bowed head and arms folded
over his breast.

"Carl," he said suddenly, "I have had enough of Paris. Have you?"

"What, in seven days? Why, my dear fellow, I have just begun to enjoy
myself. I have only had a taste of pleasure yet."

"I am going back to Rome to-day," continued Leslie.

"I should like to know why you have made this sudden decision,
Leslie--for it is sudden, is it not?" asked Carl, pointedly.

Leslie Dane flushed scarlet, then paled again.

"Yes, it is sudden," he answered, constrainedly, "but none the less
decisive. Don't try to argue me out of it, Carl, for that would be
useless. Believe me, it is much better that I should go. I want to get
to work again."

"There is something more than work at the bottom of this sudden move,"
said Carl Muller, quietly. "I don't wish to intrude on your secrets,
_mon ami_, but I could tell you just why you are going back to Rome in
such a confounded hurry."

"You could?" asked Leslie Dane, incredulously.

"You know I told you long ago, Leslie, that there is a woman at the
bottom of everything that happens. There is one at the bottom of this
decision of yours. You are running away from a woman!"

"The deuce!" exclaimed Leslie, startled out of his self-control by Carl
Muller's point-blank shot; "how know you that?"

"I can put two and two together," the German answered, coolly.

Leslie looked at him with a question in his eyes.

"Shall I explain?" inquired Carl.

Leslie bowed without speaking.

"Well, then, last night, when we laid aside our masks I happened to
be quite near to our lovely hostess, and a friend who was beside me
immediately presented me."

"Well?" said Leslie Dane, with white lips.

"I was immediately impressed with the idea," continued Carl, "that
I had met Mrs. Carlyle before. The impression grew upon me steadily
during the minute or two while I stood talking to her, although I could
not for the life of me tell where I had met her. But after I had left
her side I stood at a little distance and observed her presentation to
you."

Leslie Dane walked away to a window and stood looking out with his back
turned to his friend.

"I saw her look at you, Leslie," Carl went on, "and that minute she
fell back and fainted. They said that she struck her head against the
_jardiniere_, which caused her to faint. But I know better. She may
have struck her head--I do not dispute that--but the primal cause of
her swoon was the simple sight of _you_!"

"I do not know why you should think so, Carl," said his friend, without
turning round. "It is not plausible that the mere sight of a stranger
should have thus overcome her. Am I so hideous as that?"

"You were not a stranger," said Carl, overlooking the latter query,
"for in that moment when she bowed to you it flashed over me like
lightning who she was. I was mistaken when I thought I had met her
before. She was utterly a stranger to me. But I had seen her peerless
beauty portrayed in a score of pictures from the hand of a master
artist. It is no wonder the resemblance haunted me so persistently."

There was silence for a minute. Leslie did not move or speak.

"Leslie, you cannot deny it," Carl said, convincingly: "the beautiful
Mrs. Carlyle is the original of the veiled portrait you used to keep in
your studio, and which you allowed me to look at only on the occasion
when you painted it out."

"I do not deny it," he said, in a voice of repressed pain. "What then,
Carl?"

"This, _mon ami_--she was false to you! I do not know in what way, but
possibly it was by selling herself for that old man's gold. You owe her
no consideration. Why should you curtail your holiday and disappoint
your friends and admirers merely because her guilty conscience feels
a pang at meeting you? You two can keep apart. Paris is surely large
enough for both to dwell in without jostling each other."

What Leslie Dane might have answered to this reasoning will never be a
matter of history, for before he could open his lips to speak there was
a thundering rap at the door.

In some suspense he advanced and threw it open.

Three or four officers of the French police, in their neat uniform,
stood in the hallway without.

"Enter, gentlemen," he said, courteously, though there was a tone of
surprise in his voice that they could not mistake.

Carl Muller, too, though he did not speak, rose from his seat and
expressed his amazement by his manner.

The officers filed into the room gravely, closing the door after them.
Then the foremost one advanced, with an open paper in his hand, and
laid his hand firmly but respectfully on Leslie Dane's arm.

"Monsieur Dane," he said, in clear, incisive tones that fell like a
thunder-clap on the hearing of the two artists--"Monsieur Dane, I
arrest you for the willful murder of Francis Arnold at his home in
America three years ago!"



CHAPTER XXX.


"_Quelle horreur_, Felise! that was a shocking _denouement_ to-night.
We tremble on the brink of a volcano."

Mrs. Arnold and her daughter were rolling homeward in their luxurious
carriage from the masquerade ball at Colonel Carlyle's chateau, and the
elder lady's remark was uttered in a tone of trepidation and terror.

But Felise leaning back in her corner among the silken cushions in the
picturesque costume of a fortune-teller, only laughed at her terror--a
low and fiendish laugh that expressed unqualified satisfaction.

"_Ma mere_, was Leslie Dane's resurrection a great surprise to you?"
she inquired, with a covert sneer.

"A great surprise, and a terrible shock to me, too," the lady answered.
"Of course, after believing him dead so long, it is very inconvenient
to have him come to life again--as inconvenient for Colonel Carlyle and
his wife as for us."

And again Felise laughed mockingly, as if she found only the sweetest
pleasure in her mother's words.

"Felise, I cannot understand you," exclaimed Mrs. Arnold, anxiously.
"Surely you forget the peril we are in from this man's resurrection
from the grave where we thought him lying. I thought you would be as
much surprised and frightened at this dreadful _contretemps_ as I am."

"I have known that Leslie Dane was living all these three years,"
answered Miss Herbert, as coolly as before.

"Then the paper you showed to me and to Bonnibel must have been a
forgery!'

"It was. I had the notice of Leslie Dane's death inserted myself."

The carriage paused at their hotel, and they were handed out.

Mrs. Arnold followed her daughter to her own apartments.

"Send your maid away, Felise. I must talk to you a little," she said.

Felise had a French maid now instead of Janet, who had resolutely
declined to cross the ocean with her.

"Finette, you may go for awhile," she said. "I will ring when I need
you."

The maid courtesied and went away.

Felise motioned her mother to a chair, and sank into another herself.
Mrs. Arnold seated herself and looked at her daughter searchingly.

Mrs. Arnold took up the conversation where it had been dropped when
they left the carriage.

"You say you forged the notice of Leslie Dane's death in the
newspaper," she said. "Of course you had some object in doing that,
Felise."

"Yes, of course," with another wicked laugh. "It was to further the
revenge of which I have had so sweet a taste to-night."

"So what has happened to-night is only what you have intended and
desired all along?"

Felise bowed with the grace of a duchess.

"Exactly," she answered, with a triumphant smile. "I have been planning
and scheming over two years to bring about the consummation of
to-night."

"It was cleverly planned and well executed," Mrs. Arnold said,
admiringly; "but is it quite finished? Of course Colonel Carlyle does
not know the truth yet."

"He knows that Leslie Dane was a former lover of his wife; he witnessed
their meeting to-night. That of itself was enough to inflame his
jealous passions to the highest degree, and make him wretched. I rely
upon Bonnibel herself to finish my work."

"Upon Bonnibel! How will she do it?"

"You know her high and overstrained sense of honor, mother. Of course
she will not remain with Colonel Carlyle, now that she knows she is not
his wife. There is but one course open to her. She will fly with Leslie
Dane, and leave a note behind her revealing the whole truth to him."

"Are you sure she will, Felise?"

"I am quite certain, mother. That is the only orthodox mode for such
a heroine of romance as your husband's niece. To-morrow Leslie Dane
and his silly young wife will have flown beyond pursuit and discovery,
yet neither one can be happy. The years in which she has belonged to
Colonel Carlyle will be a blight and a blot upon her fair fame that
she can never forget, while Leslie Dane, with the passions of manhood
burning in his veins, _cannot_ forget and will scarcely _forgive_ it.
They cannot be happy. My revenge has struck too deep at the root of
that evanescent flower that the world calls happiness. And Colonel
Carlyle is the proudest man on earth. Think you that he can ever hold
up his head again after the shame and disgrace of that dreadful blow?"

"Scarcely," said Mrs. Arnold, echoing her daughter's laugh with one as
cold and cruel. "You have taken a brave revenge, Felise, for Colonel
Carlyle's wrongs against you, and if all goes as you have planned, I
shall be proud of your talents and rejoice in your success. But my mind
misgives me. Suppose some officious American here--and you know there
are plenty such now sojourning in Paris--should remember Leslie Dane
and arrest him for my husband's murder?"

For a moment Felise Herbert grew pale, and an icy hand seemed tugging
at her heart-strings.

"I do not have the least apprehension of such a calamity," she
answered, throwing off the chill presentiment with an effort. "I feel
sure that Leslie Dane and his Bonnibel will be far beyond pursuit and
detection before to-morrow night. And you will infinitely oblige me by
keeping your doleful croaking to yourself, mother."

Mrs. Arnold looked at her watch and rose wearily.

"It is almost morning," she said; "I think I will retire. Good-night,
my dear, and pleasant dreams."

"They cannot fail to be pleasant!" answered Felise, with her mocking,
triumphant laugh.

But her dreams were all waking ones.

She was too triumphant and excited to sleep.

"This is a happy, happy night for me!" she exclaimed again and again.



CHAPTER XXXI.


Bonnibel was completely crushed by the knowledge that Colonel Carlyle
had put into execution his threat of making her a prisoner.

For a moment she ran wildly about the room, passionately seeking some
mode of egress, filled with the impulse of seeking and following her
poor, maltreated Lucy.

But no loophole of escape presented itself.

Her suite of rooms, boudoir, dressing-room, and sleeping-apartment,
all communicated with each other, but only one opened into the hall,
or presented any mode of egress from her imprisonment. Of this room,
the boudoir which she then occupied, Colonel Carlyle had taken the key.
She was in an upper story, many feet from the ground, or she would
have jumped from the window in her desperation. As it was she could do
nothing. She threw herself down upon the floor, crushing her beautiful
ball-dress with its grasses and lilies, and wept unrestrainedly.

The slight form heaved and shook with emotion, the tears rained from
her eyes in a torrent. At length, worn out with passionate weeping,
and overcome by the "dumb narcotic influence of pain," she fell asleep
where she lay on the floor, her wet cheek pillowed on her little hand,
her golden hair floating about her in "sad beauty."

Thus Colonel Carlyle found her when he entered, late that morning.
He was honestly shocked at the sight, for he had supposed that
she would yield gracefully to the inevitable, and retire to her
sleeping-apartment without more ado when she found how inflexible a
will he was possessed of. Instead, here she lay prostrate on the rich
velvet carpet of the boudoir, still attired in her ball-dress, the
traces of tears on her pale cheeks, and her restless slumber broken by
sobs and moans that shook her slight form like a wind-shaken-willow.

He stood still looking down at her, while pity vainly struggled against
the fierce anger and resentment burning hotly in his heart.

"She can grieve for him like this," he muttered bitterly, and lifted
her, not rudely, but yet unlovingly, and laid her down upon a silken
sofa.

The movement disturbed her, and for a moment she seemed about to wake;
but the heavy lethargy of her troubled sleep overpowered her.

Colonel Carlyle stood silently watching her for a little while,
marveling at her beauty even while he felt angry with her for the
uncontrollable emotion that had touched her fairness with the penciling
of grief. Then, with a deep yet unconscious sigh, he kissed her several
times and went softly away. It was noon when she started up from her
restless slumbers, pushing off the silken coverlet that had been
carefully spread over her.

She sat up, pressing her hand upon her aching temples, and looked about
the room with dazed, half-open eyes. For the moment she had forgotten
her trouble of the previous night, and fully expected to see her
faithful Lucy Moore keeping her patient vigil by the couch of her weary
mistress. But memory returned all too swiftly. The kind, loving face of
Lucy did not beam its welcome upon her as of old. Instead, the cold,
hard face of a smartly-dressed, elderly Frenchwoman looked curiously at
her as the owner rose and courtesied.

"I am the new maid, madam," she explained. "I hope madam feels better."

Bonnibel stared at her in bewilderment.

"Where is Lucy? I want Lucy," she said almost appealingly.

"Madam, I knows nothing of Lucy," she answered. "_Monsieur le colonel_,
the husband of madam, engage me to attend upon madam. I will remove
your ball dress, _s'il vous plait_."

With those words the whole bitter truth rushed over Bonnibel's mind.
A low, repressed cry, and she fell back on the sofa, again hiding her
convulsed face in her hands.

"Madam, you make yourself more sick by dis emotion," said the new maid
in her broken English. "Allow me to bring you someding to break your
fast--some chocolate, a roll, a bit of broiled bird."

"I want nothing," Bonnibel answered, bitterly at first, but the next
moment she sat up and struggled to regain her composure.

"What is your name, my good woman?" she inquired.

"Dolores, madam, at your service," said the maid, with one of her low
courtesies, "Dolores Dupont."

Bonnibel rose and moved slowly toward her dressing-room.

"Dolores," she said, "you may come and remove this robe. I was very
tired last night, and my maid having left me, I fell asleep in my ball
costume."

Dolores deftly removed the crushed and ruined robe, and substituted a
dressing-gown, while she brushed and arranged the beautiful golden hair
that was straying on her shoulders in wild disorder.

"It is the most beautiful hair in de world," she said. "Dere are many
ladies would give a fortune to have it on deir own heads."

But Bonnibel did not heed the praise. She had no thought or care for
her beauty now. She only said, listlessly:

"Never mind removing the dressing-gown, Dolores, I will lie down again.
I am very tired."

"I shall bathe your head with the _eau de cologne_--shall I?" the maid
inquired.

"No, no, only let me rest."

"You will breakfast, at least, madam?" the woman persisted.

"Not now, Dolores. I wish for nothing but rest," she said, as she
passed into her boudoir and lay down again upon the sofa.

The maid followed after her.

"I should wish your keys, madam, to pack your trunks," she said,
solicitously.

"To pack my trunks!" exclaimed the mistress, in surprise. "Why should
you wish to do that, Dolores?"

Dolores looked back at her in surprise also.

"For your journey, of course, Madam Carlyle," she said. "Monsieur, your
husband, tells me dat Paris do not agree with your health, and dat he
removes you dis day to his palace in Italy on de Bay of Naples."



CHAPTER XXXII.


Alas for that one triumphant night of Felise Herbert. It was succeeded
by a day of disappointment.

It was scarcely noon before she heard that Colonel Carlyle had caused
the arrest of Leslie Dane upon the charge of murdering Mr. Arnold, and
that he had been committed to prison to await a requisition from the
governor of New Jersey, in which State the deed had been committed.
Mrs. Arnold entering her room in a tremor of nervous agitation, found
her pacing the floor, wildly gesticulating, and muttering to herself,
in terms of the fiercest denunciation, anathemas against Colonel
Carlyle.

"The miserable old dotard!" she exclaimed, furiously. "To think that
his madness should have carried him to such lengths! Just when I felt
so sure of my revenge he has balked me of my satisfaction and imperiled
my safety by his jealous madness!"

"Felise, you have heard all, then?" exclaimed Mrs. Arnold, anxiously.

Felise turned her blazing dark eyes toward her mother, and Mrs. Arnold
shuddered.

"All, all!" she echoed passionately; "ill news flies apace!"

"Felise, I feared this!" exclaimed Mrs. Arnold. "You were
over-confident last night. Who could tell what form that old man's
madness would take?"

"Who, indeed!" cried her daughter passionately. "And yet my theory
seemed so plausible--who could have dreamed of its failure? But for him
all would have gone as I planned it! But you cannot dream, mother, what
that besotted old villain had the audacity to do!"

"It is not possible he suspected your complicity in the affair,
Felise--he has taken no steps against _us_?" wildly questioned the
mother as she sank into a chair half-fainting with terror.

"No, no, he has not done that, mother--his deviltry took another form."

"What, then, my dear? Oh! Felise, do sit down and calm yourself, and
let us talk this matter over quietly," implored Mrs. Arnold anxiously.

"Calm myself--ha, ha, ha, when the blood in my veins has turned to
molten fire, and is burning me to ashes! You are an iceberg, mother,
with your cold words and calm looks, but you cannot put out the fire
that is raging within me! Surely I must be wholly my father's child!
There is nothing of you about me--nothing!"

"Yes, she is like her father--the more pity! For there was madness in
his blood," Mrs. Arnold muttered inaudibly; "and I, oh! God--all my
life I have fostered her evil passions, in my greed of gold, until now,
when her reason totters on the brink of insanity. Oh! that I might undo
my part in this fearful tragedy, and save her from the gulf that yawns
beneath her feet!"

Overcome by her late remorse and terrible forebodings, she hid her face
in her hands while a nervous trembling seized upon her from head to
foot. Felise paused in her frenzied walk and eyed her curiously.

"Mother, are you turning coward in the face of danger?" she asked, with
a ring of contempt in her voice.

There was no reply. The bowed face still rested on the trembling hands,
the form still shook with nervous terror. Something in the weakness
and forlornness of that drooping attitude in the mother who had
subordinated everything else to her daughter's welfare, struck like a
chill upon Felise, and partially tamed the devil raging within her. She
spoke in a gentler tone:

"Rouse yourself, mother. See! I have quite sobered down, and am ready
to discuss the matter as calmly and dispassionately as you could wish.
Ask what you please, and I will answer."

Mrs. Arnold looked up, taking new heart as she saw that Felise still
retained the power to subdue her fiery passions.

"Then tell me, dear, what else Colonel Carlyle has done besides causing
Leslie Dane's arrest," said her mother.

Felise grasped the arms of her chair and held herself within it by a
frenzied effort of will. Her voice was low and intense as she answered:

"Mother--he found out that Bonnibel was about to fly from him last
night--just as I told you she would, you remember--and he--he actually
locked her into her rooms, turned Lucy Moore, her maid, into the
street--and is keeping his wife a prisoner to prevent her escape."

Mrs. Arnold was too astonished to speak for a minute or two. At length
she found voice to utter:

"How know you that, Felise?"

"I have a spy in the chateau, mother--nothing that transpires there
remains long unknown to me," returned the daughter, calmly.

Again there was momentary silence and surprise. Mrs. Arnold's weaker
nature was sometimes confounded by a new discovery of her daughter's
powerful capabilities for evil.

"What must Bonnibel's feelings be under the circumstances?" she
exclaimed at last.

"I cannot imagine," was the dry response.

"Will she confess the truth to him, do you think?"

"I cannot tell; I hope she _will not_," said Felise with strong
emphasis.

"I thought you wished him to know the truth. Was not that a part of
your cherished scheme of revenge?"

"Yes, it was, but 'there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip,' you
know. And now that he has prevented her escape with Leslie Dane, and
caused the artist's arrest, the only chance of safety for you and me
lies in his keeping her a close prisoner until the trial is over."

"What can that avail us, Felise?"

"Can you not see?" exclaimed Felise impatiently. "Leslie Dane must
be sacrificed to save us. He must be convicted by circumstantial
evidence, and punished. Bonnibel is the only person who could prove his
innocence. Let her keep out of the way and all will go well with us.
Should she appear at the trial then discovery and ruin stare us in the
face."

"But you forget, my dear, that Leslie Dane can prove his own _alibi_
by the minister who married him that night, even though we could
procure Bonnibel's silence."

Felise laughed heartlessly.

"Yes, he could, certainly, but the question is, would he? I am quite
sure he would not."

"But why should he be silent when his life would most probably pay the
forfeit?" exclaimed Mrs. Arnold, with a slight shudder.

"Mother, there are men who would die for an over-strained point of
honor. From all that I can gather from his intercepted letters, Leslie
Dane is precisely that sort of a man. He is a Southerner, you know--a
Floridian. You have been in the South, and you know that its natives
are proud, chivalrous, honorable to the highest degree! Well, he can
have no means of knowing that Bonnibel is imprisoned by her husband--of
course the proud old colonel will keep that fact a dead secret, and
invent some plausible excuse for her retirement from society. The
artist can therefore attribute her absence from the trial to but one
thing."

"And that?" queried Mrs. Arnold.

"He will think that Bonnibel is silent because she would sooner
sacrifice him than lose her prestige in society, and her brilliant
position as the wife of Colonel Carlyle. He will scorn to betray her
secret, and will go to his death with the self-sacrifice of a martyr."

"But suppose Colonel Carlyle should let Bonnibel go free? What then?"

Felise laughed softly.

"He will not do so, mother. I have sent him an anonymous letter to-day
that will fairly madden him with jealousy. He will never unlock her
prison-door until the grass is growing over the handsome face of Leslie
Dane."



CHAPTER XXXIII.


Within the gloomy cell of a French prison Leslie Dane was seated on a
low cot-bed, looking out through the narrow, grated window at the blue
and sunny sky of France. The young artist looked haggard and wan in the
clear light of the pleasant day, for though it was winter the rigors of
that season had not yet set in. His dark eyes had a look of suffering
and despair in their beautiful depths, and his lips were set in a weary
line of pain. It was the day after his incarceration, and he had spent
a wretched, sleepless night, almost maddened by the horror of his
fearful situation. Suddenly the heavy key turned in the iron door; it
swung open to admit a visitor, and then the jailer closed and re-locked
it, shutting into the gloomy cell the blonde face of Carl Muller.

"_Bon jour_," he said, with his debonair smile that seemed to light the
gloomy place like a beam of sunshine. "How goes it, _mon ami_?"

A gleam of pleasure shone faintly over his friend's haggard features.

"Is it you, Carl?" he said; "I thought you had deserted me!"

"Ingrate, could you think it?" responded Carl. "I was busy yesterday
trying to find out some particulars of this mysterious affair, and they
would not admit me last night. I came this morning as soon as they
would let me in."

"Thanks Carl; I might have known you were true as steel. And yet there
is so much falsity and treachery on earth, how could I be sure of your
loyalty? Have you learned anything?"

"Your accuser is the American, Colonel Carlyle," was the startling
reply.

"My God!" exclaimed Leslie Dane, with a violent start; and then he
added in a passionate tone, and half to himself: "Has he not already
wronged me beyond all forgiveness?"

"He seems to have pushed it forward with the greatest malignity,"
continued Carl. "There are other countrymen of yours here in this
city who declare they knew of the foul charge against you, yet they
say that the verdict against you was given on purely circumstantial
evidence, and that, such being the case, they did not intend to molest
you, believing that you might after all be innocent of the crime. But
Colonel Carlyle has pushed the affair in a way that seems to indicate a
personal spite against you."

Leslie's broad, white brow clouded over gloomily.

"It is true, then, that there is such a charge against me. I fancied
there _must_ be some mistake. The whole affair seemed too monstrous
for belief, yet you say it is a stern fact. It is so inexplicable to
me, for I swear to you, Carl, that up to the very moment of my arrest
yesterday I did not know that Francis Arnold was dead."

"And I believe you, Leslie, as firmly as I believe in the purity of my
mother away off in my beloved Germany. I know you never could have been
guilty of such a foul crime."

"A thousand thanks for your noble confidence, Carl. Now I know that I
have at least one true friend on earth. I was rather cynical in such
matters before. A sad experience had taught me to distrust everyone,"
exclaimed Leslie, as he warmly grasped the young German's hand. "But
what reason do they assign for my alleged commission of the crime?"

"They told me," said Carl, hesitatingly, "that you were poor and
unknown, and aspired to the hand of the millionaire's beautiful and
high-born niece. Mr. Arnold, they said, declined your suit for the
young lady's hand, and you became enraged and left him, uttering very
abusive language coupled with threats of violence. He was murdered
while sleeping in his arm-chair that night on his piazza, and it was
supposed that you had stealthily returned and wreaked your vengeance
upon him."

"My God!" said Leslie Dane, "they have made out a black case against
me, indeed. But upon whose circumstantial evidence was my conviction
based?"

"Mrs. Arnold, the wife of the murdered man, and his step-daughter, Miss
Herbert, heard and witnessed the altercation from their drawing-room
windows. Their evidence convicted you, it is said."

"My soul!" exclaimed the unhappy prisoner to himself. "Bonnibel was
there; she at least knew my innocence, yet she spoke no word to clear
me from that most foul aspersion! And yet I could have sworn that she
loved me as her own life. Oh, God! She was falser than I could have
dreamed. But, oh, that angel face; those beguiling lips--how can they
cover a heart so black?"

"Come, come, _mon ami_, don't give up like this," said Carl, distressed
by the sight of his friend's uncontrollable emotion. "It is a monstrous
thing, I know, and will involve no end of time and worry before you get
clear, of course, but, then, there is no doubt of your getting off--you
have only to prove your innocence, and you can easily do that, you
know. So let's take it as a joke, and bear it bravely. Do you know I
mean to cross the ocean with you, and see the farce played out to the
end? Then you shall take me around, and do the honors of your native
land."

Leslie looked at the bright, buoyant face of the German artist as he
spoke so cheerily, and a suspicious moisture crept into his dark eyes.
He dashed his hand across them, deeming it unmanly weakness.

"Oh! Carl," he exclaimed, remorsefully, "how little I have valued your
friendship, yet how firm and noble it has proved itself in this dark
and trying hour! Forgive me, my friend, and believe me when I say that
I give you the sole affection and trust of a heart that heretofore has
trusted nothing of human kind, so basely had it been deceived. I thank,
I bless you for that promise to stand by me in my trial! And now I will
do what I should have done long ago if I had known the value of your
noble heart. I will tell you my story, and you shall be my judge."

Word for word, though it gave him inexpressible pain to recall it, he
went over the story of his love for Bonnibel Vere, and her uncle's
rejection of his suit, and the high words that passed between them.
He passed lightly over their farewell, omitting but one thing. It was
the story of their moonlight sail and secret marriage. That story was
sealed within his breast. He would have died before he would have
revealed Bonnibel's fatal secret to any living soul.

"I left Cape May, where they were summering, on the midnight train,"
he concluded, "and the next day I sailed from New York for Europe. I
never heard from Francis Arnold or his niece again. She had promised to
be faithful to our love, but though I wrote to her many times I never
received one line in return until that fatal note which you remember.
In it she wrote me that she loved another."

"Perfidious creature!" muttered Carl.

"I never heard of her again," continued Leslie, "until, to my
unutterable surprise, I met her as the wife of Colonel Carlyle."

"And it is for one so false and cruel that you rest under this dreadful
charge," exclaimed the German. "But, please God, you will soon be
cleared from it. Of course you will have no difficulty in proving an
_alibi_. That is all you need to clear you."

But Leslie did not answer, and his friend saw that he was pale as
death.

"Of course you can prove an _alibi_--cannot you, Leslie?" he asked,
with a shade of anxiety in his tone.

But Leslie looked at him with a gleam of horror in his dark eyes, and
his voice shook with emotion as he answered:

"No, Carl, I cannot!"

Carl Muller started as though a bullet had struck him.

"Leslie you jest," he exclaimed, hoarsely. "Of course you can prove
where you were at that exact time when the murder took place. Your
safety all hinges upon that. Do you not remember where you were at that
time?"

"Ah, Heaven, do I not remember? Every moment of that time is indelibly
stamped upon my memory," groaned the unhappy prisoner.

"Then why do you talk so wildly, my dear fellow? All you have to do is
to tell where you were at that time, and produce even one competent
witness to prove it."

"I cannot do it!" Leslie answered, gravely.

"But, good Heavens, man, your life may have to pay the forfeit if you
fail to establish an _alibi_ at the trial."

"I must pay the forfeit, then. Carl, I choose death rather than the
only available alternative," was the inscrutable and final reply.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


"Words fail me, Colonel Carlyle, when I try to express my burning
sense of your injustice in this high-handed outrage! What, in this
enlightened age, in this nineteenth century, do men turn palaces into
prisons, and debar weak women of their liberties? Am I a slave that you
have turned your keys upon me, and set hirelings and slaves to watch
me? Am I a criminal? If so, where is my crime?"

A long and elegant saloon in a beautiful palace in Italy. The rich
curtains of silk and lace are looped back from the windows, and the
view outside is the beautiful Bay of Naples with the clear, blue, sunny
sky reflected in its blue and sparkling waves. A garden lies below the
windows, rich, in this tropical clime, with beautiful flowers, and
vines and shrubbery, while groves of oranges, lemons, figs and dates
abound in lavish luxuriance. Within the room that was furnished with
princely magnificence and taste, were a man and a woman, the man old,
and bowed, and broken, the woman young and more beautiful than it
often falls to the lot of women to be. Her delicate features, chiseled
with the rare perfection of a head carved in cameo, were flushed with
passion, and the glow of anger shone through the pure, transparent
skin, tinting it with an unusual bloom. As she walked restlessly up and
down the room, in her trailing robe of soft azure hue, her sea-blue
eyes blazed under their drooping lashes until they looked black with
excitement.

"I tell you," she said, pausing a moment, as no answer came to her
passionate outburst, and facing the man before her with a slim,
uplifted finger, as if in menace, "I tell you, Colonel Carlyle, that
the vengeance of Heaven will fall upon you for this cruel, unmanly
deed! Oh, how can you forget your sense of honor as a soldier and a
gentleman, and descend to an act so ignoble and unworthy? To imprison a
weak and helpless woman, who has no friend or defender save Heaven! Oh,
for shame, for shame!"

His eyes fell before the unbearable scorn in hers, and he turned as if
to leave the room. But half way to the door he paused and came back to
her.

"Bonnibel," he said, sternly, "cease this wild raving, and calm
yourself. My troubles are hard enough to bear without the additional
weight of unmerited reproaches from you. I am of all men the most
miserable."

She shook off the hand with which he attempted to lead her to a seat,
as if there had been contagion in the mere contact of his white,
aristocratic fingers.

"No, do not touch me!" she exclaimed, wildly. "At least spare me that
indignity. All other relations that have existed between us are altered
now, and merged simply into this--I am your prisoner, and you are my
jailer. The eagle spurns the hand of its captor. Remember, there is
proud, untamable blood in my veins that will not be subdued. I am Harry
Vere's daughter."

Bonnibel saw him wince as the name of her beloved father passed her
lips.

"Ah, you are not lost to all sense of shame," she cried. "You can
tremble at the name of the hero you have wronged through his helpless
daughter! Oh, Colonel Carlyle, by the memory of my father, whom you
pretended to love and honor, I beg you to let me go free from this
place."

Her angry recklessness had broken down suddenly into pathetic pleading.
Her slender hands were locked together, her eyes were lifted to his
with great, raining tears shining in them. He turned half away,
trembling in spite of his iron will at sight of those tearful eyes, and
parted, quivering lips.

"Bonnibel," he answered, in a voice of repressed emotion, "my suffering
at the course I have found myself compelled to pursue with you is
greater than your own. I love you with all the strength of a man's
heart, and yet I am almost compelled to believe you the falsest of
women. And yet, through all the distrust and suspicion which your
recent conduct has forced me to harbor, the instinct that bids me have
faith in the honor of Harry Vere's daughter is so much beyond the mere
power of my reason that at one little promise from your lips you might
this moment go free!"

"And that promise?" she asked, dashing the blinding tears away from her
eyes and looking into his face.

"Bonnibel, on the night when I presumed to lock you into your chamber
you were about to fly from me--to what fate I know not, but--I feared
the worst. Think of the shame, the disgrace, the agony I must have
endured from your desertion! Can you wonder that I took stringent
measures to prevent you from carrying your wild project into execution?
I would have laid you _dead_ at my feet before you should have broken
my heart and made me a target for the scorn of the world."

She did not flinch as he uttered the emphatic words and looked keenly
into her face. She thought of herself vaguely as of one lying dead at
the feet of that stern, old, white-haired man, yet the passing thought
came to her indifferently as to one who was bearing the burden of a
"life more pathetic than death." She felt no anger rising within her
at the threat. Only a faint, stifled yearning awoke within her for a
moment as his stern voice evoked a vision of the rest and peace of the
grave.

"You see how strongly I feel on this subject, my wife," he continued,
after a long pause, "yet even now you shall go free if you will give me
your sacred word of honor, by the memory of your father, that you will
not desert me--that you will not leave me!"

Silence fell--a long, painful silence. He stood quite still, looking
down at her pale face, and waiting for her answer with quickened
heart-beats. For her, she seemed transformed to a statue of marble
only for the quick throbs that stirred the filmy lace folded over her
breast. She stood quite still, her eyes drooping from his, a look of
pitiful despair frozen on the deathly pallor of her face. Outside they
could hear a soft wind sighing among the flowers and kissing the blue
waves of the bay. Within, the fragrance of an orange tree, blooming in
a niche, came to them with almost sickening oppressiveness. Still she
made no sign of answer.

"Bonnibel," he said, and his hoarse, strained voice fell so unnaturally
on the stillness that he started at its strange sound, "Bonnibel, my
darling little wife, you will give me that promise?"

She shivered through all her frame as if those pleading words had
broken her trance of silence.

"Do not ask me," she said, faintly, "I cannot!"

"You will not give me that little promise, Bonnibel?"

"_I cannot_," she moaned, sinking into a chair and hiding her face in
her hands.

"You are determined to leave me, then, if you can?" he exclaimed in a
voice of blended horror and reproach.

"_I must_," she reiterated.

"Then tell me _why_ you must go away, Bonnibel. What is this fatal
secret that is driving you forth into exile? This mystery will drive me
mad!"

She removed her hands a moment, and looked up at him with sad, wistful
eyes, and a face crimson with painful blushes.

"Colonel Carlyle, I will tell you this much," she said, "for I see that
you suspect me of that which I would rather die than be guilty of. I
am not going because a guilty passion for a former lover is driving
me from your arms to his. If I go into exile I shall go alone, and I
shall pray for death every hour until my weary days upon earth are
ended forever. Death is the only happiness I look for, the future holds
nothing for me but the blackness of darkness. I can tell you nothing
more!"

She ceased, and dropped her anguished face into the friendly shelter of
her hands again. He remained rooted to the spot as if he could never
move again.

"Bonnibel," he said, at last, "surely some subtle madness possesses
you. You do not know what you would do. I must save you from yourself
until you become rational again."

With these words he went out of the room, locking the door behind him.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Colonel Carlyle had not quitted the room an hour before Bonnibel's
maid, Dolores, came into her presence, bearing a sealed letter upon a
salver.

"_Une lettre_ from monsieur le colonel, for Madam Carlyle," she said,
in her curious _melange_ of French and English. Bonnibel took the
letter, and Dolores retreated to a little distance and stood awaiting
her pleasure.

"What can he have to write to me of?" she thought, in some surprise, as
she opened the envelope.

She read these words in a rather tremulous hand-writing:

  "Bonnibel, my dear wife," and she shuddered slightly at the words--"I
  sought you a little while ago to inform you of my immediate departure
  for Paris, but our interview was of so harrowing a nature that
  I was forced to leave you without communicating my intention. I
  could not endure your reproaches longer. I am compelled to leave
  you here--circumstances force my immediate return to Paris. It is
  possible, nay, probable, that I may have to make a trip to the United
  States before I return to Naples. Believe me, it is distressing to me
  beyond measure to leave you now under existing circumstances, but the
  business that takes me away is most imperative and admits of no delay.

  "I have made every possible provision for your comfort and pleasure
  during my absence. The housekeeper, the domestics and your own
  especial maid will care for you faithfully. In an hour I leave here.
  If you have any commands for me; if you are willing to see me again,
  and speak even one word of kind farewell, send me a single line by
  Dolores, and I will be at your side in an instant.

                                               "CLIFFORD CARLYLE."

She finished reading and dropped the letter, forgetful of the lynx-eyed
French woman who regarded her curiously. Her eyes wandered to the
window, and she fell into deep thought.

"Madam," the maid said, hesitatingly, "Monsieur le colonel awaits _une_
reply. He hastens to be gone."

Bonnibel looked up at her.

"Go, Dolores," she answered, coldly; "tell him there is _no reply_."

Dolores courtesied and went away. Bonnibel relapsed into thought again.
She was glad that Colonel Carlyle was going away, yet she felt a faint
curiosity as to the imperative business which necessitated his return
to his native land. She had never heard him allude to business before.
He had been known to her only as a gentleman of elegant leisure.

"Some of the banks in which his wealth is invested have failed,
perhaps," she thought, vaguely, and dismissed the subject from her mind
without a single suspicion of the fatal truth--that the jealous old
man was going to America to be present at the trial of Leslie Dane, and
to prosecute him to the death. Ah! but too truly is it declared in Holy
Writ that "jealousy is strong as death, and as cruel as the grave."

Colonel Carlyle was filled with a raging hatred against the man who had
loved Bonnibel Vere before he had ever looked upon her alluring beauty.

He had received an anonymous letter filled with exaggerated
descriptions of Bonnibel's love for the artist, and his wild passion
for her. The writer insinuated that the lovely girl had sold herself
for the old man's gold, believing that he would soon die, and leave
her free to wed the poor artist, and endow him with the wealth thus
obtained. Now, said the unknown writer, since the lovers had met
again their passion would fain overleap every barrier, and they had
determined to fly with each other to liberty and love.

Colonel Carlyle was reading the letter for the hundredth time when
Dolores returned from delivering his letter to Bonnibel with the cold
message that there was "no reply."

That bitter refusal to the yearning cry of his heart for one kind
farewell word only inflamed him the more against the man whom he
believed held his wife's heart. It seemed to him that that in itself
was a crime for which Leslie Dane merited nothing less than death.

"She read my letter?" he said to the maid who stood waiting before him.

"_Oui, Monsieur_," answered Dolores, with her unfailing courtesy.

"That is well," he said, briefly; "now, go."

Dolores went away and left him wrestling with the bitterest emotions
the heart of man can feel. He was old, and the conflicting passions
of the last few years had aged him in appearance more than a score of
years could have done. He looked haggard, and worn, and weary. But his
heart had not kept pace with his years. It was still capable of feeling
the bitter pangs that a younger man might have felt in his place.
Felise Herbert had done a fearful work in making this man the victim
of her malevolent revenge. Left to himself he had the nobility of a
good and true manhood within him. But the hand of a demon had played
upon the strings of the viler passions that lay dormant within him, and
transformed him into a fiend.

"Not one word!" he exclaimed, to himself, in a passion of bitter
resentment. "Not one word will she vouchsafe for me in her pride and
scorn. Ah, well, Leslie Dane, you shall pay for this! I will hound you
to your death if wealth and influence can push the prosecution forward!
Not until you are in your grave can I ever breathe freely again!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"The slow, sad days that bring us all things ill" merged into weary
weeks, but brought no release to the restless young creature who
pined and chafed in her confinement like a bird that vainly beats its
wings against the gilded bars of its cage. Dolores Dupont guarded her
respectfully but rigorously. Weary days and nights went by while she
watched the sun shining by day on the blue Bay of Naples, and the
moonlight by night silvering its limpid waves with brightness. Her
sick heart wearied of the changeless beauty, the tropical sweetness
and fragrance about her. A cold, northern sky, with darkening clouds
and sunless days, would have suited her mood better than the tropical
sweetness of Southern Italy. As it was she would sometimes murmur to
herself as she wearily paced the length of her gilded prison:

    "Night, even in the zenith of her dark domain,
     Is sunshine to the color of my fate."

But "the darkest hour is just before day," it is said. It was as true
for our sweet Bonnibel as it has proved for many another weary soul
vainly beating its weary wings against the bars of life in the struggle
to be free. Just now, when her heart and hope had failed utterly and
her only chance of escape seemed to lie in a frank confession of the
truth to Colonel Carlyle, the path of freedom lay just before her feet,
and destiny was busy shaping an undreamed-of future for that weary,
restless young heart.

"I can bear it no longer," she murmured, as she paced the floor late
one night, thinking over her troubles until her brain seemed on fire.
"I will write to Colonel Carlyle and tell him the truth--tell him that
dreadful secret--that I am not his wife, that I belong to another!
Surely he must let me go free then. He will hate me that I have brought
such shame upon him; but he will keep the secret for his own sake, and
let me go away and hide myself somewhere in the great dark world until
I die."

She dropped upon her knees and lifted her clasped hands to heaven,
while bitter tears rained over her pallid cheeks.

"Heaven help me!" she moaned; "it is hard, hard! If I only had not
married Colonel Carlyle all might have gone well. Oh, Leslie, Leslie,
I loved you so! God help me, I love you still! Yet I shall never see
you again, although I am your wife! Ah, never, never, for a gulf lies
between us--a gulf of sin, though Heaven is my witness I am innocent of
all intentional wrong-doing. I would have died first!"

Her words died away in a moan of pain; but presently the anguished
young voice rose again:

"The sibyl's fateful prophecy has all been fulfilled. Yet how little I
dreamed that it _could_ come true! Oh, God, how is it that I, the proud
daughter of the Veres and the Arnolds, can live with the shadow of
disgrace upon my head?"

She dropped her face in her hands, and the "silence of life, more
pathetic than death," filled the room. All was strangely still; nothing
was heard but the murmurous waves of the beautiful Bay of Naples softly
lapping the shore. Suddenly a slight, strange sound echoed through the
room. Bonnibel sprang to her feet, a little startled, and listened
in alarm. Again the sound was repeated. It seemed to Bonnibel as if
someone had thrown a few pebbles against the window. Yes, it must be
that, she was sure.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Full of vague alarm, blent with a little trembling hope of she knew not
what, Bonnibel ran to the window, which was fortunately not fastened
down, pushed up the sash and peered down into the night. The moon had
not fully risen yet, and there was but a faint light in the clear sky,
but down in the dark shrubbery below she fancied she could see a human
form and a white face upturned to the window.

Yes, she was right. In a moment a low and cautious, but perfectly
audible voice, floated up to her ears.

"Oh! my _dear_ Miss Bonnibel," was what it said, "is that you?"

Bonnibel put her hand to her heart as if the shock of joy were too
great to be borne.

It was the voice of the poor girl over whose unknown fate her heart had
ached for many weary days--the welcome voice of faithful Lucy Moore.

"Yes, it is Bonnibel," she murmured gently back, fearing that her
voice might be heard by Dolores Dupont, who slept on a couch in the
dressing-room to be near her mistress.

"Are you alone?" inquired Lucy, softly.

"Yes, quite alone," was answered back.

"Miss Bonnibel, I have a rope-ladder down here. I am going to throw
it up to you. Try and catch it, and fasten it to your window strongly
enough for me to climb up to you."

Bonnibel leaned forward silently. A twisted bundle was skillfully
thrown up, and she caught it in her hands. Stepping back into the room
she uncoiled a light yet strong ladder of silken rope.

"Fasten it into the hooks that are used to secure the window-shutters,"
said Lucy's voice from below.

Trembling with joy, Bonnibel fastened the ends strongly as directed,
and threw the rope down to Lucy. In a few moments the girl had climbed
up to the window, sprang over the sill, and had her young mistress in
her arms.

"One kiss, you darling!" she said, in a voice of ecstasy, "then I must
pull up the rope, for I fear discovery, and I have much to tell you
before I take you away with me!"

Bonnibel's heart gave a quick bound of joy.

"Oh! Lucy, will you really take me away?" she exclaimed, pressing the
girl's hand fondly.

"That's what I am here for," answered Lucy, withdrawing her mistress
into the darkest corner of the room, after having drawn her rope up and
dropped the curtains over the coil as it lay upon the floor.

"Lucy, how did you ever find me?" exclaimed Bonnibel, gladly, as they
sat down together on a low divan, mutually forgetting the difference in
their position as mistress and maid in the joy of their re-union.

"I've never lost track of you, Miss Bonnibel, since the night your
husband turned me into the cold, dark street."

"Cruel!" muttered Bonnibel, with a shudder.

"Yes, it was cruel," said Lucy, "but I didn't spend the night in
the streets! Pierre, the hall-servant, let me in again unbeknownst
to Colonel Carlyle, and I slept in my old room that night, though I
couldn't get to speak to you because he had locked you into your room
and kept the key. At daylight I went away and secured a lodging near
you--you know I had plenty of money, Miss Bonnibel, because you were
always very generous! That evening when Colonel Carlyle took you away,
along with that hateful furrin maid, I followed after, you may be
sure, and I've been in Naples ever since trying to get speech of you;
but though I've tried bribery, and corruption, and cunning, too, I've
always failed until to-night."

She paused to take breath, and Bonnibel silently pressed her hand.

"So there's the whole story in a nutshell," continued Lucy, after
a minute; "I ain't got time to spin it out, for you and me, Miss
Bonnibel, has to get away from here as quick as ever we can! Do you
think you can climb down my ladder of rope?"

Bonnibel smiled at the anxious tone of the girl's question.

"Of course I can, Lucy," she said, confidently, "I wish there were
nothing harder in life than that."

"Miss Bonnibel," said the girl, in a low voice, "we must be going in a
minute or two, now. Can you get a dark suit to put on? And have you any
money you can take with you? For it will take more money than I have in
my purse, perhaps, to carry us home to New York."

"To New York--are we going back there?" faltered the listener.

"As fast as wind and water can carry us!" answered the girl. "You and
me are needed there in a hurry, my darling mistress. At least _you_
are, for I feel almost sure that a man's life is hanging on your
evidence."

"Lucy, what can you mean?" exclaimed Bonnibel, in amazement.

"Ah! I see they have told you nothing!" answered Lucy.

Bonnibel caught her arm and looked anxiously into her face.

"No one has told me anything," she said. "What should they have told
me?"

"Much that you never knew, perhaps," said the girl, shaking her head
gravely.

"Then tell it me yourself," said Bonnibel. "Do not keep me in suspense,
my good girl."

"May I ask you a question first, Miss Bonnibel?"

"As many as you please, Lucy!"

"You remember the night poor old master was murdered?" said the girl,
as if reluctant to recall that painful subject.

"As if I could ever forget it," shuddered the listener.

"You were down at the shore until late that night," pursued the
girl, "and when you got back you found your uncle dead--murdered!
Miss Bonnibel, was Mr. Dane with you that night on the sands? I have
sometimes been athinkin' he might a been."

"Lucy, what are you trying to get at?" gasped the listener.

"I only asked you the question," said Lucy, humbly.

"And I cannot understand why you ask it, Lucy, but I will answer it
truly. Leslie Dane was with me every moment of the time."

"I thought so," said Lucy, fervently. "Thank God!"

"Lucy, please explain yourself," said Bonnibel anxiously. "You frighten
me with your mysterious looks and words. What has gone wrong?"

"I am going to tell you as fast as I can, my dear young mistress. Try
and bear it as bravely as you can, for you must go back to America to
right a great wrong."

"A great wrong!" repeated the listener, helplessly.

"You were so sick after Mr. Arnold died," said Lucy, continuing her
story, "that the doctors kept the papers and all the news that was
afloatin' around, away from you; so it happened that we never let you
know that your friend, Mr. Leslie Dane, was charged with the murder of
your uncle."

There was a minute's shocked silence; then, with a smothered moan
of horror, Bonnibel slid from her place and fell on the floor in a
helpless heap at Lucy's feet.

"Oh! Miss Bonnibel, rouse yourself--oh, for God's sake don't you faint!
Oh, me! oh, me! what a born fool I was to tell you that before I got
you away from this place!" cried Lucy in terror, kneeling and lifting
the drooping head upon her arm.

"Oh! Miss Bonnibel, please don't you faint now!" she reiterated, taking
a bottle of smelling salts from her pocket and applying it to the young
lady's nostrils.

Thus vehemently adjured, Bonnibel opened her blue eyes and looked up
into the troubled face of her attendant.

"We have got to be going now," urged the girl, "you must keep all your
strength to get away from here."

"I will," said Bonnibel, struggling to a sitting posture in Lucy's
supporting arms. "I am quite strong, Lucy, I shall not faint, I give
you my word, I will not! Go on with your story!"

"I mustn't--you can't stand it," answered the girl, hesitating.

"Go on," Bonnibel said, with a certain little authoritative ring in her
voice that Lucy had always been wont to obey.

"If I must then," said Lucy, reluctantly, "but there's but little more
to tell. Mr. Dane got away and they never caught him till the night of
your grand masquerade ball when Colonel Carlyle recognized him. The
next day he had him arrested and put in a French prison on the charge
of murder."

"And now?" asked Bonnibel, in horror-struck accents.

"And they all sailed for the United States more than two weeks ago,"
answered Lucy, sadly. "Mr. Dane to his trial, and Colonel Carlyle, Mrs.
Arnold and Miss Felise Herbert to testify against him."

"More than two weeks ago," repeated Bonnibel like one dazed.

"I heard some men talking about it," Lucy went on, "and they said that
if Mr. Dane couldn't prove his absence at the time of the murder he
would certainly get hung."

A moan was Bonnibel's only response.

"So you see, my dear young mistress, that his only chance rests on your
evidence, and we must start right away if we are to get there to save
him!"

Bonnibel sprang to her feet, trembling all over.

"Let us go this moment," she said, feverishly; "oh, what if we should
be too late!"

Wild with horror she set about her preparations. Her one thought now
was to save Leslie Dane though the whole world should know the shameful
secret she tried so hard to keep from its knowledge.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


February winds blew coldly over the sea at Cape May, the day was bleak
and sunless, a misty, drizzling rain fell slowly but continuously,
chilling the very marrow of one's bones. No one who could have helped
it would have cared to venture out in such dreary, uncomfortable,
depressing weather. But up and down the beach, before the closed
mansion of Sea View, walked a weird, strange figure, bareheaded in the
pitiless war of the elements, bowed and bent by age, clothed in rent
and tattered finery, with scant, gray locks flying elfishly in the
breeze that blew strongly and cruelly enough to have lifted the little,
witch-like form and cast it into the sea.

"I am a fool to come out in such stormy weather!" this odd creature
muttered to herself. "What is it that drives me out of my sick bed to
wander here in the rain and wind before Francis Arnold's house? There
is a thing they call _Remorse_, ha, ha--is that the haunting devil that
pursues me?"

She looked at the lonely mansion, and turned back to the sea with a
shudder.

"_Whose_ is the sin?" she said, looking weirdly out at the wild waves
as if they had a human voice to answer her query. "_She_ tempted me
with her gold--she had murder in her heart as red as if she had dyed
her hands in his life-blood! Ugh!" she wrung her hands and shook them
from her as if throwing off invisible drops, "how thick and hot it was
when it spurted out over my hands! Yet was not the sin hers? Hers was
the brain that planned, mine but the hand that struck the blow!"

"Gold, gold!" she went on, after a shuddering pause, "what a devil it
is to tempt one! I never harmed human being before, but the yellow
glitter was so beautiful to my sight that it betrayed me. Strange,
that when it had made me do her will, it should have grown hateful to
my sight, and burned my hands, till I came here and cast every golden
piece of my blood-bought treasure into the sea."

She drew nearer to the waves, peeping into them as if perchance the
treasure she had cast into their bosom might yet be visible.

"There was a man named Judas," she muttered; "I have heard them tell of
him somewhere--he sold a man's life for some pieces of silver--but when
it was done he went and cast the treasure back to those who had bought
his soul. He must have felt as I do. What is it that I feel--_remorse_,
_repentance_, or a horror of that dreadful leap I shall soon be taking
into the dark?"

Walking wildly up and down she did not see two figures coming towards
her through the mist of the rain--two female figures shrouded in long
water-proof cloaks and thick veils.

"Miss Bonnibel," said one to the other, "'tis the wicked old witch--the
fortune-teller--Wild Madge. Sure the old thing must be crazy, tramping
out in such wild weather!"

Bonnibel shuddered as she looked at the weird old creature.

"Cannot we avoid her notice?" she inquired, shrinking from contact with
the sibyl.

At that moment Wild Madge turned and saw them. Directly she came up to
them with her fortune-teller's whine:

"Cross my palm with silver and I will tell your fortune, bonny ladies."

"No, no, Wild Madge, we haven't got time to hear our fortunes told,"
said Lucy Moore. "Don't try to detain us. We are on a mission of life
and death."

"So am I," mocked the sibyl with her strange, discordant laugh. "Death
is on my trail to-day; but I know you, Lucy Moore, and you, too, lovely
lady," she added, peering curiously under Bonnibel's veil. "I told your
fortune once, pretty one--did the prophecy come true?" she inquired,
seizing hold of Bonnibel's reluctant hand, and drawing off her glove.

"Yes, it came true," she answered, tremblingly.

"Yes, I see, I see," said the sibyl, peering into the little hand; "you
have suffered--you suffer still! But, lady, listen to me! The clouds
are breaking, there is a silver lining to every one that droops over
you now. You may believe what I tell you; ha! ha!

    "'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
      And coming events cast their shadows before.'"

Uttering the quotation with the air of a prophetess, she released
Bonnibel's hand and suddenly sank upon the wet ground with a stifled
moan of pain.

"Oh! Lucy, she is ill--her hands are as hot as fire, her eyes are quite
glassy," exclaimed Bonnibel in alarm as she bent over the fallen form.

"We can't help that, Miss Bonnibel--we are compelled to hurry on to
Brandon," said the girl, for though ordinarily the softest-hearted of
human beings her impatience to be gone made her rather indifferent to
the visible weakness and illness of the sibyl.

"Oh! but, Lucy, we must spare her a moment," cried Bonnibel, full of
womanly pity, and forgetting her dread of the sibyl at sight of her
sufferings; "she must not die out here in the cold and rain. Let us
take her between us and lead her to the house, and leave her in care of
the old housekeeper if she is there."

"We must hurry, then," said Lucy; "Mr. Leslie Dane's life is worth more
than this old witch's if she lived two hundred years to follow her
trade of lying!"

She stooped very gently, however, and helped the poor creature to her
feet; supporting the frail form between them, the mistress and maid
walked on toward the house.

"What threatens Leslie Dane's life?" inquired the old sibyl suddenly,
as she walked between them with drooping head.

"They are trying him for the murder of Mr. Arnold, more than three
years ago, if you must know," said Lucy.

"Is he innocent?" inquired the old creature in a faltering voice.

"Innocent? Of course he is--as innocent as the angels," answered Lucy,
"but he can never prove it unless me and Miss Bonnibel can get the
witnesses at Brandon to prove an _alibi_ for him. So you see we are
wasting time on you, old woman."

"Yes, yes," faltered Wild Madge, humbly. "But where are they trying
him, Lucy Moore?"

"At Cape May Court House, old woman--and the evidence will be summed up
to-day, the jurors will give their verdict. You see we must hurry, if
we would save him."

"Yes, yes; better to leave the old woman to die in the rain, and hurry
on," whined the sick woman.

"We are here now. We will leave you under shelter at least," Bonnibel
answered gently.

They led her in, and consigned her to the care of the wondering old
housekeeper at Sea View, and went back to the shore.

The _Bonnibel_, battered and worn, but still seaworthy, rocked at her
moorings yet. They loosened the little craft, sprang in, Bonnibel took
up the oars, and the little namesake shot swiftly forward through the
rough waves to Brandon.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


"Prisoner at the bar, have you anything to say why the sentence of
death shall not be pronounced against you?"

The solemn words of the judge echo through the crowded court-room,
and the sea of human faces turn curiously and with one accord towards
the spot where the prisoner sits with his friend, the handsome German
artist, by his side, where he has remained throughout the trial.

The case has excited much interest, for the murdered man had been
widely known, and as for the man accused of the murder, his native
land had but just commenced to hear of him as a son whose brow was
crowned with laurels in the world of art. But almost simultaneously
with the announcement of his brilliant success abroad had followed the
dreadful tidings of his arrest for the murder of Mr. Arnold, and the
distinguished position of the murdered man and the fame of the gifted
young artist accused of the crime had drawn thousands to the trial.

It was all over now. Day after day the prisoner had sat with his
flashing dark eye, and calm, pale brow, listening to the damning
evidence against him. From first to last, despite the entreaties of his
lawyer and friends, he had resolutely declined to attempt proving an
_alibi_--the only thing that could have saved him. Now, the trial was
over, the evidence had been summed up and given to the jury, and they
had returned their verdict of willful murder. Nothing now remained but
the dreadful duty of the judge--to pronounce upon that young, handsome,
gifted man the sentence of annihilation--of _death_!

And accordingly he had begun with the usual ceremonious formula:

"Have you anything to say why the sentence of death should not be
pronounced against you?"

And the eager crowd surged forward for a nearer view of Leslie Dane's
face.

Colonel Carlyle was there, sitting with Mrs. Arnold and Felise Herbert.
There was an ill-concealed expression of relief and satisfaction upon
the faces of the three. They had pursued an innocent man to the death,
but no twinge of remorse stirred their hard hearts as he rose in his
seat, pale, proud and handsome, towering above the crowd in his kingly
hight and stateliness, and confronted the judge.

"I have nothing to say, your honor, except that _I am not guilty_!"

A low murmur of approbation from some, and of dissent from others
instantly arose, and was immediately hushed by the crier of the court.

At that moment, when the judge rose to the performance of his duty,
a messenger brought a tiny slip of paper and placed it in the hands
of Leslie Dane's lawyer. As he read it his gloomy face brightened
marvelously. He rose in his seat flushed and radiant.

"May it please your honor to suspend the sentence of the court. There
is a new and important witness."

The next moment a graceful, veiled figure, clad in heavy, soundless
black silk, glided into the witness-box.

She was sworn, and lifted her veil to kiss the book. A perfectly
beautiful face, blanched to the pallor of marble, was revealed by the
action. A murmur of admiration arose from the spectators, blent with
subdued exclamations of horror from three who were nearly stricken
lifeless by her unexpected advent.

"Silence in the court!" thundered the crier.

The examination of the witness began.

"What is your name?"

And clear and sweet as a silver bell the lady's voice arose in answer,
penetrating every strained ear in the densely-packed court-room.

"I have been known as Bonnibel Carlyle, but I am Bonnibel Dane, the
wife of the prisoner at the bar!"

As the words left her lips she glanced beneath her long lashes at the
face of Leslie Dane. In her swift look there was shame, abnegation,
self-sacrifice, curiously blended with uncontrollable pity and almost
tenderness. The face that looked back at her was so radiant that it
almost dazzled her. Her eyes dropped swiftly, and she never looked at
him again while she stood there.

Many eyes turned upon Colonel Carlyle to see how he bore the stroke of
fate. He sat perfectly still, white as marble, staring like one frozen
into a statue of horror at the beautiful witness in the box, whose blue
eyes took no note of his presence.

The examination proceeded. Bonnibel told her story calmly, clearly,
bravely. When she concluded and left the witness-stand she was
succeeded by the old minister and his wife, whom she had brought from
Brandon.

They corroborated her testimony and left no flaw in the evidence.
The clouds which had hung over Leslie Dane's fair name so long were
dissipated by the sunlight of truth. His _alibi_ was triumphantly
established, his innocence perfectly vindicated. And then, to the
surprise of all and the utter consternation of Felise Herbert, Wild
Madge, the sibyl, hobbled weakly into the witness-box, pale, wrinkled,
cadaverous, the image of hideous old age and approaching death.
Breathless silence pervaded the multitude while the dying woman told
her story, interspersing it with many expressions of remorse and
horror. Briefly told, her confession amounted to this: Felise Herbert
had sought her humble cabin the night that Mr. Arnold and Leslie Dane
had quarreled, and bribed her to murder the millionaire. Tempted by
the large reward, she had stolen upon Mr. Arnold as he slept in his
arm-chair on the piazza and stabbed him to the heart with a large
knife. Then, ere long, remorse had fastened upon her, and she had cast
the golden price of her dreadful crime into the engulfing waves of the
ocean. Finishing her story with a last labored effort, and throwing up
her arms wildly into the air, Wild Madge, the feared and dreaded sibyl
of Cape May fell forward on the floor of the court-room--dead!

As soon as her body had been removed from the place the lawyer who had
prosecuted Leslie Dane rose hastily in his seat. It might be out of
order, he said, but he should be glad to ask a few questions of the
minister who had performed the marriage ceremony between Leslie Dane
and Miss Bonnibel Vere.

His request was granted, and the aged, white-haired preacher was again
placed on the witness-stand, while curiosity was on the qui vive for
further developments. The lawyer cross-questioned the old man closely
for a few minutes; then he turned to the judge.

"I am bound, your honor," he said, "to inform those most interested
that, though the lady's evidence has completely vindicated Leslie
Dane, she has utterly failed to establish the legality of her marriage
with him. On the contrary, owing to the youth and inexperience of the
young man, perhaps partly attributable to his haste and agitation that
night, and to the culpable forgetfulness and carelessness of the aged
minister here, there was no license procured for the authority of the
marriage ceremony. Her former marriage, therefore, has no legality in
the eyes of the law, and she still remains, as she has been known the
last three years, the wife of Colonel Carlyle."

As the lawyer resumed his seat, amid a breathless hum of excitement,
a loud shriek pierced the air of the court-room--a wild, horrible,
blood-curdling, maniacal cry. Every eye turned on Felise Herbert, who
had risen in her seat, and with distorted features, livid lips and
burning eyes, was wildly beating the air with her hands. Her appearance
was appalling to behold as she stood there with her hat falling off,
her hair in disorder, and foam flecks on her livid, writhing lips.

"Foiled! foiled!" she exclaimed wildly. "I am baffled of my revenge at
every point."

Everyone seemed horror-struck. None attempted to molest her as she
moved forward and stood before Colonel Carlyle. The old man looked up
at her vacantly. He had neither moved nor spoken since the entrance of
his wife; he seemed to be fettered hand and foot by a trance of horror.
He did not heed the threatening look in the eyes of Felise Herbert as
they fell upon him, full of the wild glare of madness.

"You jilted me, fool!" she said, passionately, wildly gesticulating
with her hands--"jilted me for the sake of Bonnibel Vere's baby beauty.
I swore revenge upon you both. I forged the notice of Leslie Dane's
death, made her believe it was true, and drove her to desperation and
forced her to marry you. I made you jealous by my anonymous letters,
and turned your married life into a hell upon earth. But now, the
sweetest drop in my cup--the illegality of your marriage--is turned
into bitterness. But I will have my revenge yet. _Die_, _die_, villain!"

One movement, swift as the lightning flash, and a little dagger gleamed
in her hand, and the next instant was buried to the hilt in Colonel
Carlyle's heart.

With a groan he fell on the floor at her feet.

Strong hands bore the raving maniac away, attended by her frightened,
horror-struck mother.

The poor victim of the madwoman's fatal revenge, as he lay weltering in
his blood, lifted his dimming eyes, and gasped one imploring word:

"_Bonnibel!_"

Trembling like a wind-blown leaf, she came at his call, and knelt down
at his side with a great pity shining in her soft blue eyes.

The dying man's gaze dwelt on her for a moment, drinking in all the
sweetness and fairness of the face he loved, and which he was losing
forever.

"My wife," he murmured, in hollow, broken accents, "do you
not--see--I--was--not wholly--to blame? A--fiend's--work--goaded
me--on! She has--had--her revenge. But--it--might have been--so
different--if I had known. Bonnibel, _forgive_!"

She took his hand in hers and bent her face lower over him, with all
the divine pity and forgiveness of a tender woman shining in the eyes
that were brimming over with tears.

"I am sorry it all fell out so," she said, very gently, "and I forgive
all--as freely as I hope to be forgiven."

A beam of love and gratitude flashed over his features an instant; then
it faded out in the grayness and pallor of death. Bonnibel turned away,
and hid her face on the shoulder of the faithful Lucy.

"It's all over, my poor darling. Shall we go away now?" Lucy whispered.

"We must go back to his home with him, Lucy. We must show him the last
tribute of respect. I have forgiven him. He was more sinned against
than sinning," she murmured back.

So when the mournful funeral cortege moved from the gates of his
stately home, Colonel Carlyle's darling, whom he had so passionately
loved despite his jealous madness, went down to the portals of the
grave with him, and saw all that was mortal of Clifford Carlyle laid
away in the kindred dust.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


Felise Herbert was pronounced by the most competent physicians a
dangerous and incurable maniac. She was accordingly removed to an
insane asylum for life.

Mrs. Arnold escaped all suspicion of complicity in her daughter's
crimes, and was suffered to go free from the terrors of the law. But
she had no object in life now. The destruction of her idol had torn
down the fair citadel of hope and plunged her into incurable despair.
Wealth and position were nothing to her now, since the beautiful girl
for whose sake she had schemed to secure them could never enjoy them.
Among Felise's effects she found Mr. Arnold's stolen will. In a spasm
of remorse, she restored it to the owner, and Bonnibel received her
share of the large fortune her Uncle Francis had bequeathed her. Mrs.
Arnold went into the insane asylum where her daughter was confined,
and became a nurse there for the sake of being near the wretched and
violent maniac.

And Bonnibel?

Colonel Carlyle had bequeathed her the whole of his large fortune,
which, added to her inheritance from her uncle, made her one of the
wealthiest women in New York. But wealth cannot buy happiness. Mrs.
Carlyle, young, beautiful and wealthy though she was, might yet have
exclaimed with the gifted poet:

    "If happiness have not her seat and center in the breast,
     We may be wise, or rich, or great; we never can be blest."

She shut up the splendid New York mansion, and, taking Lucy with her,
went back to Sea View, the home she had always loved best. There,
lulled by the ocean waves, and nursed by the tender breezes, she hoped
to find a measure of rest and contentment.

"Lucy, there can be no more talk of mistress and maid between you and
me," she said then. "You have proved yourself a true and faithful
friend. I shall settle ten thousand dollars upon you, and you shall
stay, if you will, as my companion."

But Lucy Moore proved obstinate.

"I haven't got education enough to be your companion," she answered; "I
would rather be your maid still. I love to be about you, and tend you,
and care for you."

Bonnibel settled the sum she had named upon her, but the devoted girl
still remained with her in her old position. Summer came with birds and
flowers, and gentle breezes, then waned and faded, as do all things
beautiful, and autumn winds blew coldly over the sea.

One cool yet sunny afternoon the lovely widow went down to the shore
for her accustomed row in her pretty namesake, the _Bonnibel_, which
had been newly repaired and trimmed.

To her surprise, the little bark was not there, rocking idly about at
its own sweet will.

"Who can have borrowed it?" she wondered, sitting down on the sands to
watch for its return.

But after awhile her hands dropped into her lap and clasped each other
loosely; she fell into a fit of musing, and forgot to watch the sea for
return of her truant bark. There was a vague doubt and trouble tugging
at her heart-strings as she recalled some lines she had loved long ago:

    "And yet I know past all doubting, truly,
       A knowledge greater than grief can dim--
     I know as he loved, he will love me duly,
       Yea, better, even better than I love him.

    "And as I walk by the vast calm river,
       The awful river so dread to see,
     I say, 'Thy breadth and thy depth forever
       Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me.'"

The keel of the _Bonnibel_ grated suddenly on the shore; the boatman
sprang out by her side.

She looked up into the dark eyes of Leslie Dane.

"No, do not rise," he said, kneeling down beside her as she made a
nervous movement, "I do not wish to startle you."

He held out his hand and she laid hers silently within it for a moment.

"I have been traveling all over my native land with my friend, Mr.
Muller," he said, "and we talk of returning to Europe soon; but I could
not go, Bonnibel, till I came down here to thank you for--that day when
you saved my life at such a sacrifice."

"It is a canceled debt," she answered, quietly. "Do not forget that you
were about to give your life to save my secret."

There was silence for a moment. She was looking out at the ocean
with troubled, blue eyes, and a faint quiver on the tender lips. He
was looking at her as he looked long ago with his heart in his eyes.
Suddenly he caught both hands in his and held them tightly.

"It was a dreadful mistake I made that night when I thought I had bound
you so truly my own," he said. "Bonnibel, I wonder whether you are glad
or sorry now that it happened so?"

"Perhaps it was for the best," she answered, gently, "the way things
fell out."

A shade of disappointment crossed his handsome features.

"Then, Bonnibel, my darling, loved through it all," he cried, "you
would not be willing to give yourself to me now?"

She smiled and lifted her eyes to his. In their blue and tender depths
he saw shining on him the unchangeable love of a lifetime.

"Make the bond a tighter one, next time, Leslie," she said, with a shy
and radiant smile.

He stooped and clasped her fondly in his arms.

"Ah, darling," he answered, holding her tightly clasped to his wildly
beating heart, "there shall be no blind, boyish mistake this time.
There shall be a license that shall hold you mine as fast and tight
_forever_ as I hold you now in my arms!"


THE END.



Transcriber's Notes:


This story was first serialized in the _New York Family Story Paper_ in
1881; the version used as the basis for this electronic text comes from
Street & Smith's _Eagle Series_ no. 192, which also contained the full
text of another Mrs. Miller novel, _Jacquelina_.

Italics are represented with _underscores_.

Added table of contents.

Some unusual spellings, such as using "hight" instead of "height" (a
consistent habit of this author), are retained from the original.

Some inconsistent punctuation (e.g. schoolroom vs. school-room) has
been retained from the original.

Page 1, corrected "portentious silence" to "portentous silence."

Page 13, corrected "should-ders" to "shoulders" ("which had slipped
from her shoulders").

Page 17, corrected "Dean" to "Dane" in "Leslie Dane drew the old man
aside."

Page 21, corrected typo "necesary" in "Is it necessary to reveal it?"

Page 29, corrected comma to apostrophe in "gossip in the servants'
hall."

Page 37, Added missing close single quote after "present woes and past"
and corrected "iudustry" to "industry." Added missing single quotes
around poem beginning "Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb."

Page 39, added missing space to "every one" in "every one has been like
a stab."

Page 44, corrected "herself" to "himself" in "waited a proper season
to declare himself." Retained unusual spelling "impident" as presumed
dialect.

Page 52, changed "yov" to "you" and "he" to "the" in "you to refuse
Colonel Carlyle, and remain here to cheat her out of the...." Corrected
typo "difficulty" in "the difficult art of self-control." Corrected
typo "humilation" in "humiliation of her clever, handsome daughter."
Corrected single to double quote before "It is impossible for me to
marry...."

Page 53, corrected ? to ! after "out you go from under the shelter of
this roof!"

Page 56, corrected "hals" to "half" in "he said, half questioningly."

Page 58, corrected typo "Felese" in "tutored by Felise."

Page 60, corrected comma to period after "against her cruelty."

Page 61, moved misplaced quote from before "I will not have them!"
to before "Mother, have done with your warnings" and corrected typo
"warning's" in that second phrase.

Page 62, deleted duplicate "some" from "like some wild heart." Changed
"deeper meaner" to "deeper meaning."

Page 65, removed unnecessary quote after "animated her now."

Page 66, changed "Ere his first" to "Ere this first."

Page 73, added missing period after "he answers, furiously."

Page 75, added missing quote after "if I had been tucked into my bed."

Page 81, added missing "a" before "lovely garden of roses."

Page 86, added missing quote after "paint the portrait of a wrinkled
old woman." Changed "was" to "were" in "chairs and sofas were
upholstered."

Page 88, corrected typo "Carlisle" in "You flatter me, Colonel Carlyle"
and "Carlyle's masquerade ball."

Page 96, corrected "wiil" to "will" in "will be as safe." Removed
unnecessary quote after "hastened their departure."

Page 98, added missing quote after "I did not wrong you willfully."
Corrected ? to ! in "We will neither of us trouble you!"

Page 99, corrected "she" to "he" in "'Leslie Dane,' he repeated."

Page 103, corrected typo "resurection" in "man's resurrection from the
grave."

Page 110, corrected single to double quote after "Arnold was dead."

Page 112, corrected typo "hirlings" in "set hirelings and slaves."

Page 113, corrected typo "spear" in "spare me that indignity."

Page 114, corrected typo "sten" in "his stern voice evoked."

Page 117, added missing quote before "I have made every possible
provision."

Page 122, added missing comma after "So am I."





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