It may seem long to us now

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.